Intellectual Property:

Domain Names

Choosing a domain name should be simple, but legal conflicts may arise with commercial names already in existence. Some basic rules you need to understand about trademark law include:

  • Names identifying services or products in the marketplace are trademarks
  • Clever, distinct and memorable trademarks are protected under law
  • Distinctive business and domain names are most likely trademarks
  • The first commercial user of a trademark owns it in legal conflicts
  • In law, one trademark usually conflicts with another when usage of both confuses consumers
  • If an infringement exists, the later user must stop using the mark and may be liable for damages

When choosing a domain name, search existing trademarks and try to spot possible conflicts. You can access the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov. The database provides registered trademarks, as well as trademarks for which registration is pending. You should search for your proposed trademark, as well as similar spellings and synonyms of your mark.

If you are involved in a domain name dispute, complete the free case evaluation form on the right to contact an intellectual property lawyer.

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