In today’s business world, it is crucial to have a quality website that generates web traffic. Companies spend a ton of money on web design, search engine optimization, and even the domain names they use. Domain names often sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars, and a good domain name can make a website more successful. Since domains are so valuable, businesses want to protect them the same way they protect trademark. As a result, there are a lot of questions about the intersection between domains and trademark law. This post will discuss how you can acquire rights to a domain trademark and how to avoid issues of infringement related to domains.
Is a Domain a Trademark?
While a domain can be a trademark, that is not always the case. Purchasing a domain does not automatically give you trademark rights, as some people mistakenly believe. Remember that a trademark is branding. In order to acquire trademark rights, a trademark (e.g. name, logo, slogan) must be used on or in connection with products/services to identify their source. On the other hand, a domain is merely an address used to locate a website online.
Purchasing a domain does not make the domain a trademark or give you protections under trademark law. However, it is possible to use and acquire trademark rights to a domain. You would just need to brand your products and/or services with the domain name. For example, I work for the law firm YourTrademarkAttorney.com. That is both the domain for the firm and the name of the firm. Similarly, you may be familiar with Booking.com or Hotels.com.
Can My Trademark Rights Extend to Domains?
As discussed above, a domain can only become a trademark if it is used in commerce to brand products and/or services. But what about the opposite scenario? Let’s say that you have established trademark rights in your business name. Can someone else register the domain that goes with your business name?
As a practical matter, it is always a good idea to register any domains or social media accounts you may want for your business. You should do so as early as possible. Otherwise, someone may buy the domain you want or get your desired username first. It will be cheaper and easier for you to act first, even if the other person is in the wrong. Do not give others the opportunity to buy the domain you want to use.
If you have established trademark rights in a name, someone registering a similar domain name may be infringing upon your rights. If you find yourself in that situation, having a trademark registration can be extremely helpful. You may need to file what is called a UDRP (Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy) complaint in order to have the domain transferred to you.
Do You Have a Domain Name Trademark Issue?
If you are interested in obtaining a U.S. trademark registration for the domain name you use as a trademark, or if you have any other potential trademark issues related to domains, please feel free to call me at (480) 360-3499, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or complete the contact form found on this page to schedule your free initial consultation today. I look forward to speaking with you.