Trademark vs. Domain Name

You’re planning on starting your business. Now, comes the process of branding and protecting that brand. Many startups do not know the difference between purchasing a domain name to market their brand and registering their trademark(s) to protect their brand: completing one task does not affect the other.

  1. You need to determine if the domain name you want is even available by doing a simple domain name search. If your search produces no results, then you would want to act quickly and follow the steps for purchase and registration.
  2. Purchasing a domain name only allows you to own space on the internet. Anyone can purchase a domain name for profit, for future intent to use the website, or just to prevent someone else from owning a website similar to their brand or business. Use of a domain name is not required; so anyone can own a domain name, even if they are not using it. Simply paying annual fees to a reputable web host provider will guarantee your spot in the virtual world.
  3. Conduct a trademark search. If your search produces no results, then you would want to register your trademark if it’s in commerce or use. Otherwise, you would want to consider picking a more distinctive mark to distinguish yourself in the market.
  4. Trademark registration is not required to protect your brand or service, but it does provide invaluable protections not otherwise available. For example, in a trademark litigation, attorneys’ fees and statutory damages are only recoverable if the trademark was registered. Additionally, trademark registration creates a legal presumption of ownership and serves as constructive notice to the world of your ownership of that particular mark. Trademark registration also provides special protections against infringing foreign imported goods, as well as a number of other valuable benefits.

Registering your trademark and domain names are two distinct processes, but very significant steps in any successful business. Disputes often arise because a business registered its trademark, but failed to register a domain name, and vice versa. Although disputes do arise, the processes are governed by various agencies and regulated by different laws. Therefore, confusion and neglect are common, which is why seeking legal advice is always appropriate.

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