31 Aug Trademarking Your Domain: Easy Steps to Protecting Your Brand
What is a Domain
If you are working towards establishing your brand, then you are probably also interested in creating a website to promote your online presence. While the name of your company is what people use to talk about your business, your website’s domain is what search engines like Google will use to find and direct web traffic towards your site.
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A URL is AKAed as a web address, and it’s exactly that — an address for where a site can be accessed. Because this address is a series of numbers (such as an IP Address of where the server hosting the site is located), domains were invented as a human-friendly way of memorizing a web address (think of how easy it is to memorize www.youtube.com rather than 126.96.36.199). Having a strong, relevant domain name for your website helps both people and computers direct traffic to the right places.
Having a relevant domain name is also essential when you go to trademark it. According to UpCounsel, “your domain name must follow USPTO rules. For example, you can’t use generic words in your trademarked domain name. The domain should function as a “source indicator.” It must convey to whoever sees the URL what products or services are behind the name.”
However, before you can go about trademarking your domain, you have to register for and obtain one.
Domain Registration Services
Registering a domain name is the first step towards obtaining a legally binding trademark. Although the trademarking process requires some legal work, registration can be done through a third-party service, usually for a fairly low going rate. There are many services available, and each comes with its own set of advantages.
For example, one such service, 101domain, allows customers to register for a ccTLD (country code top level domain; think .us or .uk), a gTLD (generic top level domain; think .com or .info), or an IDN (internationalized domain name; a new type of domain able to be written and read in non-latin script).
Because domains can be registered by anyone willing to pay for them, it can be difficult and frustrating when the name you want is not available. In such an event, there are domain concierge services that specialize in domain acquisition. Should you opt for this service, you can request the domain name you wish to register for, and they will do the arduous work of contacting the owner of the name and attempting to reach a deal to buy the name for you.
Another service most domain registrars provide is trademark tracking. Should you opt in, the service will actively monitor your registered domain and search for either exact matches or “confusingly-similar” matches to ensure that your name is not being infringed upon. This is especially helpful in deterring cybersquatting, a term which FindLaw defines as the registering, sale, or use of a trademark that the registrant doesn’t have the rights to in order to profit off the goodwill of the trademark. For example, if you trademark the domain “MikesSandwiches.com,” a cybersquatter may attempt to divert traffic away from your site by registering the domain “MkiesSandwiches.com,” a close misspelling. This can be especially dangerous for small or new businesses, so be careful and take advantage of services like trademark tracking when you can.
These are the kinds of services you should look for in a domain registrar to ensure you are getting the most value for your money and that once your domain is registered and trademarked it will remain as safe from infringement as possible.
Advantage of Trademarking Domain
Trademarking a domain you have registered for declares to the law that you now own the rights to that name. It protects your rights to the exclusive use of your domain name and your personal brand. While registration essentially reserves the domain for you, if you haven’t trademarked it, another company can set up a domain that is similar to yours but sells inferior products, confusing customers and depriving you of business. By trademarking, you ensure yourself a leg to stand on should you be required to take legal action against such a company.
Trademarking can also help ensure the quality and longevity of your image. Take the example of MkiesSandwiches.com: customers accidentally directed to that site would be exposed to the inferior sandwiches being sold, which would not only pull away business from you in the short-term, but also tarnish your image, and thus your brand as a whole, hurting you even more in the long run. With a trademark in place, you have the peace of mind knowing that the law is on your side and that your brand will not be brought down dirty online marketing tactics.