Trademark Attorney Explains Domain Names

February 28, 2015
Domain names

Clients and marketing professionals believe registration of a domain name is sufficient protection and there is no need to register a trademark or service mark.  So, here goes.  This trademark attorney explains domain names. Domains names are not a substitute for trademark registration. A domain is nothing more than an  address, much like the street address where you live. Domain names do not afford protection against use of the domain name for competitive products or services unless separate trademark rights are established and registered.

Much of the misunderstanding arises from advice given by early Internet marketing experts who advised clients that descriptive search terms are all that are needed, since they afford instant search engine ranking.  While a descriptive domain may garner high ranking in search results, most of them stink as trademarks! 

Without continuous use of a term to sell goods or services, no trademark rights are established.

Trademarks must be distinctive, and can not describe the goods or services.  Since many domain names, describe the goods or services, they cannot function as a trademark or service mark in and of themselves.  A trademark is a word, symbol, slogan, even a sound that is used to identify and distinguish your goods and services from those of your competitors. Rights in a trademark are secured and ultimately maintained only by continuous use in commerce of the mark for specific goods and services.  Moreover, in most of the world a trademark registration is required to secure any rights at all.

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