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Infringement of Copyright on common used words on the INTERNET

Laguna Beach, CA |

Company A has URL of " Books USA . com " Company B has URL of Cheap book . com so both URL are completely different . Issue is when you go to Company B website it says Welcome to " Cheap Books USA " - meaning that they are selling cheap books inside of USA Can company A who has copy right of this " Books USA . com " including the dot com at the end ; telling the company B that you are using a part of my copy right name in your website which is " Books USA " Again , the URL of both website are different and website designs are very different . The issue is on word " USA " Isn't the word of " USA " is too common ? Does company A have a claim here ? What you gentlemen think of this case where there is common used word ? especially on the world of net . URL are examples only

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Attorney answers 5


Copyright law does not protect names. The issue you raise arises under trademark law. Domain names often contain or constitute trademarks. Trademark rights arise from use in commerce, not registration. In order to answer your question, it is necessary first to consider whether the domain name of Company A is a trademark that Company A has acquired through use in commerce (as may be confirmed by registration). If so, then the next question is whether the domain name of Company B creates a likelihood of consumer confusion with the domain name of company A.

Note that generic terms can almost never be protected as trademarks, and descriptive words or phrases (such as cheap books) can become trademarks only if they acquire secondary meaning in the eyes of consumers---which means that consumers associate the descriptive word with a particular source of goods or services. Without knowing the precise details regarding the domain names of Company A and B and without conducting a detailed clearance and trademark analysis, your question cannot be answered with any degree of confidence.

Brian Patrick Kinder

Brian Patrick Kinder


Excellent post Maurice.

Marianne S. Hamilton

Marianne S. Hamilton


Yes, I agree, and would add that even if a generic-sounding mark were to be registered only on the secondary register of the TM office, it still takes a certain amount of time to gain secondary meaning for any rights.


There are two schools of thought on choosing brand names / trade names. One is that the name ought to describe what the brand represents. That is intuitively obvious, but it has the downside that such descriptive names have little or no protective value in any trademark dispute.

The law instead calls for distinctive trade names (and logos). Te example that comes to my mind is Exxon [R]. What is an Exxon. Nowadays it is a brand of oil products etc. But when it was rolled out it had no meaning in any language, guaranteed. Instantly register-able at the PTO and very strong in a dispute. With domain name issues it is also very strong in an ICANN dispute.

So the second school is, do not pick a name and fall in love with it. Instead, do what the big boys do, on a smaller scale. Form a committee of the owner plus a branding expert plus a TM lawyer, and work the problem together.

Licensed in Maryland with offices in Maryland and Oregon. Information here is general, does not create a lawyer-client relationship, and is not a substitute for consulting with an experienced attorney on the specifics of your situation.


If you have been contacted by another company about a possible copyright/trademark infringement, then I strongly suggest that you do not ignore it or try to resolve it on your own. It needs to nip in the bud so it doesn't become a larger issue down the road.

I recommend that you contact an attorney well versed in these matters. Many respectable attorneys provide free consultation. You may wish to contact one soon. If you need any referrals you can contact my office.

The response above is not intended as legal advice since it’s impracticable to provide thorough, accurate advice based upon the query without additional details. It is highly recommended that one should seek advice from a criminal defense attorney licensed in your jurisdiction by setting up a confidential meeting. Moreover, this response does not constitute the creation of an attorney-client relationship since this message is not a confidential communication because it was posted on a public website, thereby publicly disclosing the information, which is another reason to setup a confidential meeting with an attorney.


My answer is the same as yesterday's. Without the exact names, one can not judge the "likelihood of confusion." But even in the example given, I can imagine a company with the trademarked "Books USA" being upset by a company whose website says; Welcome to "Cheap Books USA" implying "Cheap Books USA" is the official name of the company, and this similarity I feel may create a likelihood of confusion, as associated with, or a division of "Books USA."

Your own words, by putting it in capital letters does not say "Welcome to a source of cheap books in the USA" as you are trying to imply. This direct distortion of the facts makes me suspicious you are twisting the story to induce the attorney's to support your opinion. But our opinions will not change the facts, and without the facts we can not really give you a learned opinion.

Hire an attorney.

My disclaimer is simply that Avvo already has an adequate disclaimer.


There's not a lot to add to what's already been said, but I'm not going to allow that to deter me.

My first question is is there an actual dispute, or is this purely hypothetical? If there is an actual dispute, you need to state what the two names are. I don't advise that you do that in a public forum, but in order to render any kind of legal advice on a question of this nature, the facts that you are providing cannot be hypothetical.

On a general level, descriptive marks can and very commonly do function as trademarks. Once a descriptive mark acquires distinctiveness, it can be registered on the Principal Register and grant its owner all of the rights afforded to the owner of a federally-registered mark. The question then becomes whether adding words in front of a registered mark, like the word "cheap," would be sufficient to differentiate the two marks, such that consumers would not likely be confused as to the source, sponsorship or affiliation of the mark. This type of inquiry can never be answered in a vacuum. It's difficult enough to evaluate a potential infringement claim without discovery. A hypothetical? As they say in Brooklyn, Fugghedaboudit.

Disclaimer: No one in my part of Brooklyn actually says that.

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