Every business needs a domain name to function as an address to enable consumers to access the Web site. Once you choose a domain name, which is usually your trademark or company name, it is then necessary to first check to see if that name has already been registered, and if not, register that name with the proper internet service.

When Does an Internet Domain Name Qualify as a Trademark?

A domain name, such as LegalMatch.com, can qualify as a trademark when it is used in connection with a Web site that offers services to the public. This includes all sites conducting e-commerce and sites such as Yahoo.com that provide Web-related services. However, only some types of commercial domain names qualify for trademark protection. For instance, while domain names that use common or descriptive terms, such as healthanswers.com or stampfinders.com, may work very well to bring users to a Web site, they usually do not qualify for much trademark protection.

What Happens if There Is a Conflict between an Existing Trademark and a Domain Name?

Even if a company owns a federally registered trademark, someone else may still have the right to the domain name. Sometimes a person (known as a "cybersquatter") registers a trademark as a domain name hoping to later profit by reselling the domain name back to the trademark owner. If you believe that someone has registered a domain name in bad faith, you can either sue under the provisions of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), or you can fight the cybersquatter using an international arbitration system created by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

What if Someone Else already Has the Domain Name I Have Chosen?

  • Use an alternate ending: org, com, net
  • Buy the rights from the owning party
  • Change the name slightly
  • Assert your rights through a lawsuit if you already own the trademark