Let's say I want to create a website helping people to quickly analyze the MLB schedule and find games for their favorite teams. Can I purchase and utilize a domain name such as "2013MLBschedule.com"? The site would probably be ad supported and by its very nature it would also mention the names of the individual teams within the MLB (eg Cincinnati Reds). I know newspapers print schedules all the time, but I'm not so sure about using what is surely a trademark (MLB) in the domain name. [Note: I'd be glad to place a banner at the top of the page specifying that the site is not affiliated MLB if that would do the trick]
In principle a Trademark and a Domain are different registrations and are independent of each other. Having said that, there are many exceptions to that rule and if you register a Domain corresponding to a famous Trademark, your registration would be tantamount to cybersquatting and will be removed at a minimum.
With respect to the idea you propose, you are literally walking on a mine field and while you may be able to accomplished what you want, you must consult a TM attorney to ensure that you make permitted use of the teams registered trademarks.
Q: " Can I purchase and utilize a domain name such as '2013MLBschedule.com'?"
R: Registering that particular domain name would be unlawful. No one can pass judgment on other domain names "such as" that one – every domain name requires its own analysis.
Q: “If, this is a violation, then would simply owning the domains be a violation of some kind?
R: Yes. Registration alone is unlawful – publication of a webpage at that domain or offering it for sale or selling it is not required.
Q: “And if yes, then how would one mitigate the problem if they already owned the domains?
R: Speak with your registrar’s customer service department about surrendering your registration. Or speak with MLB’s legal department about transferring the domain name registration to them [or, better yet, have your own attorney do that].
Well, if you're itchin' fer a fight with the Major League Baseball folks, you might develop the Internet site you outlined and await a letter from one of their attorneys. Then you could engage an attorney to respond, urging that your use of MLB and the team names is permissible "nominative use" of the respective trademarks. Perhaps the dispute would be resolved in some way short of litigation, perhaps not.
For some background, see the article I coauthored in the August/September issue of World Trademark Review. That article was about "nominative" use of another company's trademark and cites the case New Kids on the Block v. News America Publishing 971 F.2d 302 (9th Circuit 1992).
For any actionable legal advice on the subject you wrote about, you'd need to hire your own attorney to advise you confidentially as to your rights and obligations, as well as the costs of litigation or an administrative proceeding under the UDRP, an arbitration procedure set up by ICANN for such disputes.
Asker: I just read the very useful answers and commentary by my colleagues. But they are not being blunt enough with you. It sounds from your questions and commentary that you are planning to handle this without legal counsel. Let me stress to you what a terrible idea that is. You are hoping to silently walk away into the sunset without getting the attention of MLB and its cavalry of lawyers. But how do you know whether you have already received their attention. Indeed, you have now essentially admitted engaging in blatantly illegal conduct on this public-web-site. I assure you that members of law enforcement any many private attorneys carefully review these questions and actions and are always looking for money-making opportunities. There is a very good chance that this dialogue will come to the attention of MLB and/or that you are already on their radar screen. You have created a mess for yourself by engaging in illegal cybersquatting, trademark infringement and unfair competition---and sometimes the cover up can be worse than the crime. Now that you realize that you have done something shady, I hope you are smart enough to retain experienced IP litigation counsel with criminal defense experience to guide you through the process of minimizing the damage. Remember not to talk about this situation with FBI, law enforcement or any other third parties---while criminal prosecution for what you have done is unlikely, it cannot be ruled out. You need to protect yourself---you have already demonstrated terrible judgment by engaging in the conduct described here and you can neither talk not "self help" your way out of this mess. Get a lawyer.
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