Trademark protections generally extend to brand names, words, phrases, graphics and logos that help to distinguish one company and its products from its competitors. It would seem to follow logically that a domain name associated with a particular company could be safeguarded via the trademark process as well. However, the matter of trademarking domain names is not so straightforward. Only certain domain names may be trademarked as a matter of course.
Domain Trademark Restrictions
While it is possible to obtain a trademark for a company name and/or a product name, it is not always possible to trademark a domain name. In general, the only domain names that may be trademarked are those that are specific and signify specific services available to the public. Practically speaking, this means that generic names like “clothes.com” cannot be trademarked. Similarly, if a domain is merely being used in order to encourage potential clients to contact a business, that name could likely not be trademarked. But a name may be trademarked if the domain is used to directly provide services to the public. For example, on Airbnb.com individuals can directly engage the site in order to book vacation rentals. However, the Airbnb corporation does not necessarily need for that domain name to be trademarked because it features the company’s name.
Trademarking a “Company Name” Domain
If a domain name mirrors a company’s name, that URL possesses certain legal protections even without a formal trademark in place. For example, if an individual or business attempted to register the domain name PepsiCo.com or PepsiCoInc.com, the Pepsi Corporation could sue to enforce its trademarked company name rights in court. The trademark associated with the company’s name provides it with certain protections that generally extend to a domain containing that name. If your company name is not already trademarked, this domain-related scenario is one more powerful reason why you should consider obtaining this safeguard.
Registering a Domain Name
In short, not every domain name may be trademarked and not every domain name must be trademarked in order to receive protection under the law. But it is generally important to formally register a domain name, even if a company does not plan to conduct business online. It can be confusing for customers and lead to lost business to have domains similar to one’s company name and/or products utilized by other individuals and businesses.
Domain Guidance Is Available
Don’t leave your domain name and brand unprotected. If you are interested in safeguarding a domain name and/or protecting your company’s brand in any other way, please consider reaching out to the team at LawTrades.