People new to the domain game may be surprised to find attractive sounding domains like “BuyIpods” or “FreeDellNotebook” readily available for registration or listed at online auctions like eBay for bargain-basement prices.
Beginner’s luck? Nope – those domains are available because they contain trademarks!
Savvy domainers avoid trademarked domain names like the plague. If you register trademarked terms, you can usually expect to receive a C&D (cease and desist) letter from the trademark owner along with a request to relinquish the name. Failure to do so may result in UDRP action and associated legal expenses.
As a domain name owner, you should be aware that the vast majority of UDRP cases are decided in favor of the trademark owner. If you would like to browse through domain arbitration decisions, you can do so at the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation center – it makes for interesting reading (as does the rest of the WIPO site).
How to check if a phrase trademarked:
If you don’t like collecting C&D letters and want to avoid the headaches of a domain dispute, take a few seconds checking for trademark status before you register your next domain name(s). These trademark searches are free, and while not foolproof (and there are some technicalities regarding classes of goods and services that I may address in a future post) a quick search will give you a good idea if a name is safe to register or not. Pay attention to the trademark status – “Live” indicates an active, approved trademark while “Dead” means that the trademark application was denied. “Pending” trademarks mean an application has been filed but has not yet been approved or disapproved.
- In the United States – Pay a visit to TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System) at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The basic form is the easiest to use – just type in your word or phrase and submit the query. Or check “live” to limit searches to live trademarks. The USPTO help pages will take you through more advanced search parameters.
- In Canada – The Canadian trademark database can be found at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO).
- In the United Kingdom – UK text trademarks can be researched at the UK Patent Office. Like the others, it’s very simple to use – just enter the word or words in the Trade Mark Text box and click Search. The UK trademark search gives you two matching options, “starting with” or “exact”. I recommend selecting “starting with” (the default) as it will return more data. See their help page for more information on the search options and results.
Do you know how to research trademarks in other countries? please post a comment!
By the way, this post is not legal advice – always consult an attorney for information and advice concerning trademarks or any other legal matters.
[tags]domains, domain name, internet, name, trademark [/tags]