Domain name registration is a simple task by itself. All you have to do is just pick a domain name of your choice, make sure it is available and pay the registration fee to get the registration done. Although this is true in most cases, sometimes the domain name chosen by you can result in a trademark infringement which could ultimately lead to legal battles and expensive settlements.
Domain name trademark infringement can be avoided easily if you are aware of the basic pointers that should be kept in mind before registering domain names. This article aims at providing all the information you need about domain name trademarks, how to get the trademark for a domain name, conflicting domain names, trademark infringement etc.
Domain Name Trademark – What is it?
Domain names like Dell, Samsung, Lenovo or Canon easily qualify for trademark protection as they do not contain common words from daily life. If someone uses a Dell or Canon in their domain name without the approval from the owners of these trademarks, it leads to a trademark infringement.
If a domain name consists of commonly used terms like ClothingLine.com or FoodDelivery.com, then they do not qualify for domain name trademarks as you cannot stop people from using terms like food, delivery, clothing, etc., in their domain name.
How and when do domain names qualify as a trademark?
If your domain name consists of keywords or terms that are commonly used to describe your products or services, then it is unlikely to qualify for trademark protection. On the contrary if you come up with a domain name like konduit.com that is unique by itself, it is more likely to qualify for domain name trademark and you can notify the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) of the intent to use the name in commerce as a trademark and apply for trademark protection. Although there is no legal requirement that you carry out a federal registration of your domain name as a trademark to use it for your business, it always good to register the name trademark to avoid unforeseen legal circumstances in the future.
According to a rule by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, if a domain name has to qualify as a trademark, it should be in use by the businesses for commerce — that is, to sell goods or services — before it can be protected as a trademark. This means that you can get trademark protection for a domain name only if you are actively using it for commercial selling and buying of your products or services. If the name is not actively used and you just own it, it does not qualify for trademark protection.
How can a Domain Name be trademarked?
The process of registering your domain name for trademark protection is simple. However, as mentioned before, it is important to ensure before the registration that name indeed qualifies for trademark protection. The steps to trademark a domain name are listed below:
Do a trademark search
The first step to carry out before registering the domain name is to do a trademark search on the US Patents and Trademarks Office website. When you are sure that the name chosen by you does not clash with an existing trademark, you can search for its availability and register it for your business.
Fill an application for registering the Domain Name as a trademark
Once you register your domain name and use it for your commercial business, you can apply for registering it as a trademark with the US Patents and Trademarks Office. The government charges a nominal fee for filing and processing of applications. It is important to note that the fee charged by the government is applicable even if your application for a trademark gets rejected for conflicting with an already registered and existing trademark. It is always better to take extra care and ensure that the domain name you have chosen does not clash with an already registered trademark.