When a new company is being formed, founders should pay careful attention to Internet domain names. An Internet domain name is a unique address by which an Internet resource can be identified and found by a Web browser accessing the Internet. Well-known examples are “Amazon.com” and “Priceline.com”.
Entrepreneurs must take into consideration the availability of domain names when choosing a name for their company and later when they formulate new product names or taglines. Failing to do so can be costly: a domain name may infringe the prior trademark rights or common-law rights of others. This is a particular problem for generic top-level domains (abbreviated as “gTLDs”), such as “.com” or “.net”, which have global reach and scope, as they may potentially infringe trademark rights which have a local scope only in a particular country.
Within the United States Patent and Trademark Office (abbreviated as the “USPTO”), a domain name will be accepted as a registrable mark only if it truly serves as a source identifier. A brief examination of the USPTO’s extensive records shows that this is not an insurmountable hurdle: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. obtained registration for “WALMART.COM” on July 24, 2012; International Business Machines Corporation obtained registration for “ibm.com” on October 29, 2002; and CVS Pharmacy, Inc. obtained registration for “CVS.COM” on April 3, 2001.
To avoid the expense of trademark litigation, it is prudent to determine whether the Internet domain name selected for your new business is an existing registered or unregistered trademark, service mark, or trade name owned by another company or individual. Here at Kincaid Business and Entrepreneurial Law, LLC ®, we have a particular, researched-based strategy with respect to how to secure good rights to a domain name.
If you need counsel as to how to avoid trademark, service mark, or trade name infringement before the selection of your company’s domain name, help determining whether your company’s domain name may be infringing on the trademark, service mark, or trade name rights of another company, or assistance evaluating whether your company’s domain name may have become the victim of trademark infringement, please contact me right away. If I cannot help you, I will do my best to connect you with somebody who can.
Matthew T. Kincaid