Can You Get Trademark Protection for a Domain Name?
We live in an increasingly digital world. The United States Census Bureau reports that nearly 15 percent of nationwide commerce was e-commerce in 2022—a record high. For businesses and organizations, a website—and a domain name—can be a key part of overall brand identity.
You may be wondering: Can you trademark a domain name? The answer is “yes”—but you will not automatically qualify for protection. Here, our Florida trademark registration lawyer explains the key things you need to understand about getting trademark protection for a domain name.
Yes—it is Possible to Trademark a Domain Name
As a starting point, it is important to emphasize that it is indeed possible to obtain trademark protection for a domain name. You can get a trademark approval for a domain name so long as you are able to satisfy the legal criteria set by federal law and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A domain name can be registered as a trademark if it functions as a source identifier for goods or services offered by the owner of the domain. In other words, the domain name should not merely be a web address but must also signify the origin of the goods or services to consumers.
A Domain Name Will Not Receive Automatic Trademark Protection
Owning a domain name does not automatically grant you trademark rights. Quite the contrary, most domain name owners will not be able to get a trademark for their domain name. While registering a domain name gives you the right to use the specific web address, it does not offer any legal protection against others using similar names that could cause confusion.
What You Need to Prove to Register a Trademark for a Domain Name
As noted previously, successfully registering a trademark for a domain name requires providing evidence that the domain name functions as a source identifier for your goods or services. Among other things, an applicant must establish that their domain name is not just a generic or descriptive term, but rather, it is distinctive and can be recognized by consumers as a unique brand. Here are three specific points to keep in mind:
- Domain Name Must Be Distinctive: Your domain name should be inherently distinctive, meaning it is not merely descriptive or generic. Descriptive terms are those that directly describe the goods or services offered, while generic terms are commonly used words that are associated with a particular industry.
- Commercial Use: You must provide evidence that the domain name is being used in association with the sale of goods or service in commerce. Doing so can be demonstrated by showcasing marketing materials or pages from a website where you use the domain name (mark) in associateion with the sale of goods or services.
- Unique: Finally, you need to ensure that your domain name does not infringe on any existing trademarks or cause a likelihood of confusion with another registered mark. To avoid potential conflicts, it is wise to conduct a comprehensive trademark search with the assistance of an experienced trademark attorney before submitting your trademark application to the USPTO.
Speak to a Trademark Protection Lawyer in South Florida
At Perkins Law, we devote a significant share of our intellectual property (IP) law practice to trademark cases. If you have any questions about domain names and trademark rights, we are here to help. Reach out to us by phone or connect with us online to set up a completely private, no obligation consultation. From our law office in Palm Beach County, we provide trademark protection legal services to businesses and entrepreneurs throughout South Florida.