Courtesy of William Bronchick, Bronchick Law
As your business grows, the value of your domain name increases. The issue of a domain name trademark should move to the top of your list. You need to guard against unscrupulous competitors that may try to incorporate your domain name into their meta tags to obtain search engine rankings under your name. If you have a domain name trademark, you can go after these individuals and compel the search engines to remove their listings.
What Is A Trademark? A trademark is a distinctive item that is used to identify a logo, product, device, package or service. The trademark identifies the item as being provided by a particular firm. To protect these items you can obtain a mark from the patent and trademark office that prohibits others from trying to gain economic advantage from your mark.
The patent and trademark office views domain names in a unique way. The office views the “http://www” element as a part of the file transfer process, not your domain name. The “.com”, “.net”, etc., designations are considered top-level domain identifiers and are also disregarded for the purpose of a domain name trademark. For example, our domain name is http://www.sandiegobusinesslawfirm.com. If we submitted the domain name for registration, only the “sandiegobusinesslawfirm” portion would be considered for a mark.
Locators Cannot Be Registered
A domain name is a locator for file pages. When you type in your domain name, a server locates and displays files. If a domain is used solely for this purpose, it will not be granted a mark. Instead, the domain name must be incorporated into the site. For instance, Amazon is recognized as an online bookstore and the site actually has the word “Amazon” on every page. Since “Amazon.com” is more than a locator, Amazon can apply for and receive a trademark. If Amazon used the domain name, bookstore.com, the company would be able to register “Amazon”, but not “bookstore.”
Generic and Descriptive Terms
Domain names that are generic or descriptive in nature cannot be registered because they fail to designate a distinctive product or service. For example, “sandiegobusinesslawfirm” is comprised of generic terms and describes who and where we are, to wit, a San Diego business law firm. This domain name cannot be trademarked. The same result would occur with bank.com, book.com, advice.com, etc.
You may be thinking, “What about ‘Coke?’ “Coke” is a trademarked term because it is a distinctive term for a soft drink product. It just so happens that a brilliant marketing plan has convinced most people to refer to soft drinks as “cokes”, even if they actually prefer another brand!
Trademarks are an important factor in protecting your Internet business. Armed with a trademark, you can keep competitors from pulling traffic off the search engines when people search for your site.
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