Today, a presence on the Internet is a vital part of business marketing and sales. That presence is typically represented by the existence of a web site hosted on a particular domain name. A domain name is the portal to your business and is an important part of the overall marketing process. Picking a domain name should not be taken lightly; careful deliberation is in order. As a business owner you want to be certain that your domain name represents your company, product and image so as to maximize traffic to your web site and boost sales.
One thing in particular that you want to avoid is choosing a domain name which might be confusingly similar to the trademark of others. In fact, when you register a domain name you certify that you have a legitimate interest in the name you are registering and that it does not infringe upon the trademark rights of any third party. Infringing on the trademark rights of another business can result in the loss of your domain name under ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) or even land you in court. Either way, not only will you have wasted the effort of marketing your web site and web-based business, you may find yourself mixed up in a costly mess.
To avoid legal conflict when choosing a domain name, ask yourself these questions to avoid future trouble:
- Does the domain name I have selected conflict with a third party’s trademark? (Remember that all terms that another might consider a trademark, registered or not, are not always protected. Generic terms can never be trademarks and descriptive terms can only be protected under certain circumstances.)
- Does the domain name I have selected offer goods or services that compete with those already being offered by a party with trademark rights and a similar domain name? (Customer confusion is key here. However, again, legal conflict will only arise if the other party has valid trademark rights.)
- Will your web site divert business or online traffic from a site with a similar domain name? (If you are thinking to register www.pepsicolas.com, you might want to think again…)
In the end, your domain name can spell your success on the Internet since a good name is the best asset you can ever have to make your business stand out. And it certainly cannot hurt to run your ideas by an attorney well-versed in trademark and Internet law so as to protect your interests up front.
— Adam G. Garson, Esq.