Protecting intellectual property rights should be a critical step for any business. With an online business, protecting a domain name is all the more critical.
Nothing is more aggravating than having someone infringe upon your domain name. The question for many sites, then, is how to go about protecting the domain. Filing for a trademark is one of the more popular and effective methods, but it is important to understand there are some issues that can come up.
First and foremost, a domain name may only be trademarked if it is more than just an address pointing people to a site. This is often shown by matching the domain name to the actual name of the business and then incorporating it into the page of the site. Let’s look at a classic example.
Google is obviously a distinct trademark. The title “Google” is a trademarkable domain for two reasons. First, it is distinct. Second, it is both the domain name and the name of the business. Let’s assume Google was located at a different domain. Say the domain was se3598xeifp[dot]com. This new domain would not be trademarkable because it did nothing more than point the viewer to the site in question. The phrase “Google” still would.
Another area that causes some confusion is the suffix of the domain. The suffix is the ending, usually com or net. Can you register a domain and include these suffixes? Many are surprised to learn that it is fairly difficult to do so. Why? Well, none of us have any exclusive rights to the “com”, “net” or other suffixes out there. As such, the Trademark Office tends to dislike allowing their inclusion in marks. It can be done, but you should expect to wrestle with them over it.
A final area of some confusion has to do with geographic descriptions. If you use a domain with a city, state or country in it, you are going to have problems. The Trademark Office does not allow people to poach upon municipalities or other defined areas. Sorry, but you can’t register NewYorkCity[dot].com.
At the end of the day, trademarking your domain name makes absolute senses if you can meet the relevant requirements. Said protection can be a powerful tool in helping you fight off third parties trying to poach on your name and reputation.
Richard A. Chapo is an internet attorney with SanDiegoBusinessLawFirm.com.