Trademark Domain Names

Trademark Domain Names

Ownership of a domain may or may not provide you with legal rights.

Federal trademark registration provides the protection of the U.S. government for any word, name, symbol, design or device or any combination used to identify and distinguish the goods or services of the trademark owner over those of others.

For a website, the domain name can sometimes just be the site’s address on the Internet, but it may also function as a trademark and be entitled to additional legal protection.

Merely registering a domain name does not automatically establish any trademark rights and does
not give you the right to use that name any way you want. Any commercial use of a domain name is regulated by trademark law.

 

When is a Domain Name a Trademark?

When a domain name is used merely to identify a domain’s location or address on the Internet, it
is not being used in the trademark sense. To function as a trademark, the domain name must also
function as a “source identifier.” This means that the name should be used to identify the source of goods or services that the website provides.

For example, domain names like “priceline.com” or “amazon.com” or google.com” are used as source identifiers because they are not being used merely as an address, those are also the company names and they sell services or products under those names.

If, however, a company sells its products or services under a name like “Advanced Auto Parts” but registers a domain name like “cheap-auto-parts.com,” that domain name is not being used to identify the product or services being sold. In that situation, the domain name serves only as an address
where you can find that website so the domain name would not be entitled to trademark protection.

 

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