Brand Protection: Violating Your Domain Name Violates Your Trademark
The web is a place that is pretty much untamed. It's acronym, WWW, could stand for the Wild Wild Web. Hence, it is making it harder and harder for marketers to implement brand protection. In the context of the World Wide Web, a violation of a trademark typically occurs when:
-The Trademarked name appears in a variation of the domain name
-The Trademarked name is included in content on a web page
Litigation in courts revolves around whether a website owner who tried to register their domain name includes a trademark. The duty of the court is to try and deduce whether a site's domain name is a violation of a trademark. Those site owners who are found to have violated a trademark within the URL have been issued orders to give up their registered URL.
During the dawn of the Internet, enterprising individuals took the opportunity to register domains of well-known companies, in order to hold it for ransom when the legitimate company decided it needed a website. They sometimes demanded huge amounts for the domain name and if they didn't get it, it could mean dire consequences in the scope of brand protection for the company.
Choosing the Right Domain Name
At its most basic, choosing a domain name for your product or idea is pretty easy. You want it to be one that people can remember and be able to pronounce. It should be short, witty, easy to spell and provide an idea to the consumer with regards to what it is you are offering. When you cover these bases, chances are you have a winning domain name. Though, marketing and legality are way two different things and even if you think your domain name is a winner, from a legal standpoint it might not be so.
Choosing a domain name that might conflict with any of the commercially trademarked names out there, might put you and your brand in hot water, and if found might lead to a lawsuit, you might never have thought would come to be. If brought before a judge, your domain name might be found to violate a trademarked name and you might be forced to surrender it. This might spell the end of your business, and if not the end, your business will suffer a painful blow.
You need to understand the following before choosing your trademarked name. This will help you in the context of brand protection as well as making sure your domain name does not violate any existing trademarks.
-When customers are confused by a trademark as far as the product, service or source, this can be seen as a violation by the latter user.
-A trademark that is unique, suggestive and witty is legally protected (federal and state)
-Trademarks that have come to be known and are successful via advertising and sales might also be legally protected under law (federal and state)
-The first user of a commercial trademark is the rightful owner and the latter user will most probably be forced to stop using it and/or pay damages to the original user.
When choosing a domain name remember these basic rules:-Generic terms that describe entire industries of categories can never be trademarked. Names like Toys.com, cars.com, houses.com are a few examples
-Domain names that utilize geographic location names or words which describe an aspect of the product or service such as homebuyinganswers.com for example, will not be protected by trademark law unless the domain owner can prove its success via a large number of sales and advertising. If the owner of a trademark is able to register their names with the US Patent and Trademark office, then they have probably proved it is distinctive.
The way to avoid any legal trouble is by choosing a domain name that meets your needs as far as marketing and does not conflict with any existing trademarks. You need to search as many trademarks in the trademark database as possible to be able to identify any possible conflicts and ensure you are not violating someone’s brand name. This also holds true for yourself in the area of brand protection.
What ways are you protecting your brand? What can you contribute to help readers understand what is best for them in protecting their brand? Please feel free to chime in and share this post.