Is My Domain Name a Trademark? Can I Pick Any Domain?

Is My Domain Name a Trademark? Can I Pick Any Domain?

In today’s business world, it is crucial to have a quality website that generates a good amount of web traffic.  There is a huge industry built around search engine optimization, web design, and the sale of domain names.  Domain names can easily go for hundreds or thousands of dollars, and having a strong one can help a website’s success.  Some people build their brands around a domain name.  But can your domain name be a trademark?  Is there such a thing as a “.com trademark”?

In an earlier post, I said that trademarks are typically a word (or words), phrase, logo, or symbol used in connection with the sale of goods or services, and acts as an indicator of the source of those goods or services.  Of course, just buying the domain name does not mean that it is being used in connection with any goods or services.  As with any name, the question of whether it functions as a trademark mainly depends on how you use it.  It also must be a name that can be protected under trademark law, meaning that it cannot be generic, or descriptive.  And slapping a “.com” on the end of a generic or descriptive name will not make it eligible for trademark protection.  There are, however, plenty of .com trademarks out there, and they can be registered and protected in certain situations.

So we established that your domain name can be (but is not necessarily) a trademark.  The more important question is when you should seek trademark protection (in the form of a trademark registration) for your domain name.  The most obvious situation where you would want to obtain a trademark registration for your domain would be when you use the domain name as your brand.  Prominent examples of this would include HOTELS.COM, RENT.COM, and OVERSTOCK.COM.  The company I work for, YOURTRADEMARKATTORNEY.COM also uses a .com trademark, which has been registered.  If you use the full domain name of your website as your trademark, then protecting it is important.

In addition to protecting your domain name trademark from others, you will want to make sure that your domain does not infringe upon any existing trademarks.  This means that you will need to do some research before you go out there and buy that shiny new domain for your website.  While you would only register the full domain of your website if you are using that as a trademark (meaning that you include the “.com”), your domain name can infringe someone else’s trademark even if they do not use the “.com” in their mark.  Think of it this way: if someone has a business named ABCXYZ, and you see ABCXYZ.COM, you’re probably going to assume the website is owned by ABCXYZ.  That’s why it is important before you purchase a new domain to see if that name is available, by having an experienced trademark attorney perform a trademark search for you.

Do You Have a Domain Name Trademark Issue?

If you are interested in obtaining a U.S. trademark registration for your domain name, or if you are thinking about purchasing a domain name and want to conduct a U.S. trademark search to see if that name is available, please feel free to call me at (314) 479-3668, email me at kevin@yourtrademarkattorney.com, or complete the contact form found on this page to schedule your free initial consultation today.  I look forward to speaking with you.