When Should I Purchase Domain Names?

When Should I Purchase Domain Names?

This blog focuses on the legal aspects of choosing and securing a trademark.  But picking a name also comes with several practical questions.  One of the most important of these is determining when to purchase domain names.  After all, you can end up infringing when you purchase someone else’s trademark as a domain.  You also want to make sure that no one else comes along and takes a domain with your trademark.  Here are some best practices when it comes to purchasing domains, with an eye toward trademark law.

Trademark Search Before You Purchase Domain Names

There is a ton of money made through buying and selling domain names.  New businesses want to find a memorable domain that is tied to their brand.  They purchase domain names that are memorable and will help potential customers to find them without relying on search engines.  Many people buy up available domains that they think may have value to someone someday.  This is called “domain prospecting.”  It is legal for people to do this, and they often make good money on the sale of their domains.

On the other hand, you have probably heard of “cybersquatters.”  These are people that purchase domain names that they know (or should know) correspond to someone else’s trademark.  Businesses can take legal action against cybersquatters to retrieve infringing domains from the squatters.

In order to avoid becoming a cybersquatter yourself, you should perform a trademark search before purchasing a domain name.  This is no different from the normal process that you should take before adopting a trademark.  You should perform a knockout search yourself, then have a trademark attorney perform a comprehensive federal trademark search before purchasing the domain.  Not only will this help you make sure that you do not pick an infringing name, but that you also do not buy a domain name that might cause confusion with an existing brand.

Purchase Domain Names Before Filing a Trademark Application

While you should avoid purchasing domain names before doing your research, you also want to avoid the opposite problem: buying too late.  Filing a trademark application before you purchase domain names can also cause problems.  The Trademark Office’s database is public record.  This allows cybersquatters to look at applications that have been filed recently.  They can then search for related domain names and steal them out from under applicants.  In order to avoid this issue, purchase your domain names prior to filing a trademark application.  Otherwise, you may have to choose between a less-than-optimal domain, costly litigation, or paying off the cybersquatters to get the domain that you want.

Make Sure to Purchase All Relevant Domain Names

As more websites go up and people purchase domains ending in .com, there has been a push for other domain types.  Now it is more common to see domains ending in .net, .org, or .biz.  These are potential sources of confusion that you want to prevent by purchasing a group of similar domains.  For example, if my trademark is ABC and I buy ABC.com, I should also be sure to get ABC.net, ABC.org, and other variants.  That way someone does not set up a site with a similar name right next door.  You may also purchase similar names, like the plural or singular version of your name.  For example, I own both IRegisterTrademark.com and IRegisterTrademarks.com.  Protecting variations may also prevent similar headaches later on.

Need to Check Out Your Domain Before Buying?

It is always a good idea to perform a trademark search before adopting a name.  You definitely want to look into a name before you buy and develop a website around a domain, too.  For assistance with researching your name, please 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.