Let's say I wanted to start a review site and it had a registered trademark and then reviews.com, is that legal?
For example, SonyTVReviews.com? or NikeShoeReviews.com? or PanasonicReviews.com?
And it was a site reviewing the products with affiliate links to allow people to purchase that product (paid compensation). So it wouldn't be a non-profit.
Is this legal? Or is that clear trademark infringement??
I looked for the answer, but didn't find a suitable one, so if it's been answered already my apologies.
You have a 1st Amendment right to review products, and to offer critiques using companies' trademarks to identify them, as CNET does, for example, but you want to name a domain name after a famous trademarked brand with the intent of trading on that company's TM in order to draw traffic to the website and sell ads to your affiliates who will be selling those companies' products.
The company would likely object to that use, not just because there would be "initial interest confusion," with consumers going to your site rather than the company's, but there could also be confusion about your affiliation with the company. That's TM infringement, and unfair competition.
Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.
There is no one source that tells us all what's lawful or not. Laws, regulations, and rules serve only as the skeleton for justice and while court rulings put meat on those bones every fact scenario, like every individual, looks and acts and ends up being unique.
I think it's lawful to register and use a domain name in the form "[brand]reviews.com" to publish objective product review information about the products that are offered by the particular brand and to provide links to companies that sell the branded products.
The controlling law is the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act at 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d) [see http://j.mp/bzqtQ8 at “Cyberpiracy prevention”]. I think that the addition of "reviews" to the brand name adds significant doubt that the site is operated by the brand owner [so the required likelihood of confusion element is in doubt]. I also think that the pay per click advertising revenue earned from the review site does not, all by itself, establish that the review site owner registered and is using the domain name in bad faith. Moreover, the "[brand]reviews.com" form for a domain name looks like, and serves an analogous function as, the unquestionably lawful “[brand]sucks.com” domain names. There are, in fact, at least a handful of the former: chevyreviews.com , fordf150reviews.com, canonfieldreviews.com .
You may want to play it even more safe by registering and using domain names in the "[brand]productreviews.com" format. Good luck.
But do NOT adopt my conclusion whole cloth. Before you register or use any domain name in the form you describe you NEED to speak with your trademark attorney. And don’t forget that's there is no black and white answer to your question so the brand owner may just sue you anyway.
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