Checking Domain Names for Existing Trademarks
If you choose a domain name that conflicts with any one of the millions of commercial names that already exist, you risk losing it. And if you've put money and sweat into marketing your web site and then are forced to give the domain name up, your Web-based business is likely to suffer a damaging blow.
Names that identify the source of products or services in the marketplace are trademarks. Trademarks that are clever, memorable or suggestive are usually protected under law. Trademarks that are descriptive and have achieved distinction through sales and advertising can be protected under national laws.
A legal conflict arises with a trademark when the use of a name is likely to confuse customers about the products or services, or their source. In the case of a legal conflict, the first commercial user of a trademark owns it, and the latter user will probably have to stop using the mark and may even have to pay the first commercial user damages. Applying these principles to your domain name selection, you are at risk of loosing your chosen domain name, if the owner of an existing trademark convinces a judge or arbitrator that your use of the name makes it likely that customers would be confused as to the source or quality of the products.
If a domain name uses surnames, geographic names or common words that describe some aspect of the goods or services sold on the web site it is ineligible for trademark protection unless the owner can demonstrate distinction through substantial sales and advertising. Note that, if the trademark owner has been able to register a name with one or more national trademark office, it is probably distinctive. Many domain names - for instance, coffee.com and business.com - are potentially powerful domain names, but they're generic. That is, they describe whole categories of products or services. Generic terms can not be trademarks.
The way to choose a domain name that satisfies your own marketing needs and doesn't get in the way of anybody else's trademark rights is to search as many existing trademarks as possible, spot possible conflicts and then pick a name that's unlikely to generate a nasty lawyer's letter. To do this fully may require the help and advise of a specialist. However, the first place to go to check for possible conflicts is the trademark database.
Click on the links below to check whether a name is trademarked or not in the specific countries listed.
We recommend that you select a search against each relevant country listed. If no records match your chosen domain name, this indicates that the name is not an existing trademark. Please note that NetNameNow do not guarantee the accuracy of the seach results. Simply close the new browser window to return back to this page.
United States Search
United Kingdom Search
New Zealand Search
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