In recent years, the Internet has become a center of commercial and business activity. Businesses market their services on the Internet, find trading partners and sell products to consumers. On the World Wide Web both business and individuals will use their name, or the name of a product, for the name of their web site, also called a domain name.
In order to reserve a web site name, one must register that name with a registrar, a company that is authorized to keep track of and assign domain names. Some individuals, however, have attempted "cyber-squatting," which is registering a domain name that actually belongs to another.
If someone else has registered a name to which you own a trademark, you can file a dispute with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit in charge of regulating domain registrars. Generally, the mark owner must show that:
If you can demonstrate all of these factors, ICANN will award you the domain name.
It is important to note that using this protection requires having a trademark. Though it is possible to have a trademark without federal registration, it is more difficult to demonstrate ownership of the name or phrase.
For this reason, business owners should seriously consider registering a name or mark that identifies their product with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. More information on the domain name dispute procedures can be found at icann.org, and additional information about trademarks is at uspto.gov.
Of course, the simplest solution is to register the domain name you want. It is wise for businesses to consider possible domain names they might use over the next several years. Most registrars charge approximately $10 per name per year, much cheaper than an attorney should a dispute arise.
The information contained within this article is for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. If someone needs legal advice on a domain name registration dispute, trademarks or any other issue, they are encouraged to consult an attorney licensed in their jurisdiction.