In the age of the Internet, your domain name holds as much importance for your business as the name on the front of your store.
By trademarking your domain name, you establish protection against other competing companies attempting to use your name, or a similar one, thus preventing consumer confusion.
Trademark protection is a very necessary thing, and it really makes life as an online business owner much easier.
What Is A Domain Name Trademark?
By now I hope you know what a domain name is. And if not, let me fill you in. Basically, it’s the words used for locating websites on the Internet.
Trademarks are distinctive. They legally distinguish a company’s name, design, motto, or symbol for the benefit of its products and services.
That being said, not all domain names will quality for trademark protection. In fact, most common or generic names won’t meet the criteria of a trademark, but that’s understandable.
But if your domain name is distinctive enough, or its distinction is because of the consumer association of the name and Internet address, or the owner of the domain name was the first to use it in accordance with their business, then you’re free to trademark it.
From a legal perspective, trademarking your domain name is a particularly potent move if your domain is used in commerce, or at least if you intend to use it that way.
You’re not required by any means to federally register your trademark, but by doing so, it establishes your rights to that particular trademark. For instance, anyone can use ™ or other SM’s (system marks) to keep the public aware of their trademark rights, but those alone mean the claim is necessarily valid if push comes to shove.
Why Trademark Your Domain Name?
Trademarking your domain name, federally, makes life easier for you.
The primary advantage is that trademarking your domain name gives you added protection, making it easier for you to enforce your rights to your domain because you own that trademark (read 101domain’s helpful article about trademark clearinghouse validation here).
After you register your trademark for your domain name, all others who use the trademark are presumed to already know because of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) public register of trademarks.
You’re also able to more easily maintain your rights by trademarking your domain name. This means that under USPTO law, your web address is legally protected from another company trying to use your trademark.
Not only that, but by trademarking your domain name, you’ll better protect your image. Imagine a company attempting to sell lower quality products a consumer might confuse with your own products. That puts your image in jeopardy. And you don’t want that. Trademarking helps you maintain control over your online image.
It happens a lot: consumers get confused when one company has a domain name which is very similar, if not appearing exactly the same, to another domain name. As a result, web traffic may be directed the wrong way, and the other company’s potentially inferior products may be ordered instead of your own.
In any case, it just makes sense to trademark your domain name, especially if you’re conducting business online.
How To Register Your Trademark
If you thought trademarking your domain name would be a difficult process, well, you’re in luck. It’s actually pretty simple. It goes as follows:
First, you must conduct a trademark search. This ensures no conflict between your trademark and another company’s. To start a trademark search, head on over to the USPTO website.
If all fares well, and you’re sure your domain name won’t conflict with any registered trademarks, you’ll fill out an online application (the Trademark Electronic Application System) through the USPTO website, in which you may wait upwards to four months. It’s fine, though, the wait is worth it.
There is also a typical filing fee for a domain name trademark.
Once your trademark is reviewed and (hopefully) approved, you’ll receive a Certificate of Registration, and you’re even free to use the ® symbol!
Your newly registered trademark will be valid for a period of ten years. You’re able to renew your trademark in ten year terms. Also, between the fifth and sixth year, you’re required to file an affidavit in order to keep your registration. Without filing an affidavit, your registration is canceled.
Why People Don’t Trademark Their Domain Name
Most people are just unaware of federal trademark laws. That’s it.
Yet trademarks are everywhere. We see them in our day-to-day lives constantly.
Take, for example, Nike. Their “Swoosh” trademark allows us to distinguish it from any other sports company like Adidas and Reebok. Apple, Microsoft, McDonald’s, and Burger King all have distinguishable trademarks as well.
Due to consequences of trademark infringement, people become wary. If you don’t check your domain name through the USPTO trademark search before registering whichever domain name you have in mind, you could infringe upon a similar, already registered company’s name.
You don’t want that to happen. Trademark infringement lawsuits cost around $100,000 and up. That’s a steep price to pay for not doing your research.
Most people are also unaware of the tools required in finding out if their domain name infringes upon a trademark. All it takes is a simple Google search.
Or just read this article. Your pick.
Do Trademark Domain Names Even Matter?
In short: yes.
They’re important, and they matter.
With the increasing prevalence of domain name disputes, it’s better to go with the protection USPTO law provides rather than without. It’s incredibly valuable to you as a trademark owner.
Don’t believe me? Here, let me give you an example of a popular domain name dispute.
Ever heard of a fun, little board game called Candy Land? Well, one day a domain name popped up called candyland.com. And it wasn’t for the fun, little board game we’re talking about. It turned out to be an adult entertainment company using the same name as Hasbro Games’s CandyLand board game.
To cut to the chase, Hasbro Games won under trademark dilution. Trademark dilution is a legal clause permitting a designated company to prevent others from using their trademark that would weaken the uniqueness of their trademark name.
Under the basis of trademark dilution, Hasbro Games was ultimately able to argue the candyland.com domain name tarnished their trademark and confused their consumers, so they won.
Now you see why it’s good to register your trademark domain name.
If you run a business, trademarking your domain name is the best route to follow.
It’s for your protection, and you’ll thank yourself for it later.