Domain names are an essential part of any business’s online presence. But can you trademark a domain name?
The short answer is yes.
Trademarking your domain name gives you exclusive rights to that particular mark and allows you to protect it from being used by another party.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about trademarking a domain name before building a website for your business.
- It takes a few steps to trademark your domain name, most of which are online
- Trademarks can be pricey but well worth the cost
- Your domain name is legally protected with a trademark
- Trademarking your domain name gives you exclusivity, protection, and added value.
Should You Trademark Your Domain Name?
Ultimately, the decision of whether to trademark your domain name is up to you. It’s always a good idea to have added legal protection, but you should consider these factors before making your choice:
- It allows you to protect your brand and provides legal recourse if someone else tries to use it
- Your customers will be able to easily recognize your domain name as being associated with your business
- You can prevent competitors from using confusingly similar domain names
- You can also stop others from registering the same or similar domains in other countries where you may want to expand your business operations
Domain Name vs. Trademark
A domain name is an address for a website, typically including a unique combination of characters and numbers.
Although you can use your domain name as part of your brand or business identity, it does not necessarily give you any legal rights to the mark. You may have heard of hosting alongside domain, but there are many differences between domain vs hosting.
Trademarking is the process of legally registering and protecting your brand identity. Once you’ve registered a trademark, you can use it to prevent others from using your name or logo in similar ways that could confuse customers.
Trademarking a domain name gives you legal rights to the name and prevents other parties from using it.
Can You Trademark a Domain You Don’t Own?
No, you cannot trademark a domain name if you do not own it. A trademark is an exclusive right to use a particular mark in commerce. You must have ownership of the domain first before attempting to register for a trademark.
If someone else owns the domain, they must apply and get federal registration for that domain before applying for federal trademark registration and protection.
Does a Trademark Registration Give Your Rights to the Corresponding Domain Name?
A trademark registration does not automatically grant you rights to the trademarks’ corresponding domain name.
If you have a registered trademark for your company and product names, this does not necessarily mean you can get the corresponding domain name. You may need to register a separate trademark to gain exclusive domain ownership rights as to the protected trademark.
How to Trademark a Domain Name: A Step-by-Step Guide
Step 1: Perform a Domain Name Trademark Search
Before you attempt to trademark your domain name, you should perform a domain name trademark search. This will help prevent any potential issues that may arise with your application.
You can search for a domain name trademark in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)’s online database, otherwise known as the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).
Step 2: File a Trademark Application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
When applying for a domain name trademark, it is important to include accurate information and provide evidence of the use or ownership of the trademark in commerce. For example, this could look like:
- A copy of invoices or sales receipts
- A statement of the commercial purpose for which the mark is being used
- Details about the goods and services with which the mark is associated
You can do this online or through the mail.
Step 3: Monitor Your Application
The USPTO will review your application and may contact you or the examining attorney assigned to your case with any questions or requests for additional information. You must respond promptly and accurately to avoid any delays in the processing of your application.
Step 4: Finalize Your Registration and Become a Trademark Owner
The final step in the process requires submitting the necessary fees and completing any other necessary paperwork. After that, congratulations! You are now officially the proud owner of a domain name trademark and can start using it immediately.
To use your trademark, you must display it in a consistent, recognizable, and distinctive way on all of your goods and services. Additionally, you may want to consider registering the trademark in other countries if your business is operating internationally.
How Much Does It Cost to Trademark a Domain Name?
Generally, registering a trademark in the U.S. will cost at least $250, depending on how many different classes of goods or services you need trademark protection for.
You’ll also need to pay fees to maintain your federally registered trademark, which could be at least $525 every ten years. You can learn more about the cost from the USPTO website.
Someone Has My Trademark Domain Name: What to Do?
Dealing with Trademark Domain Name Infringement
If someone has your trademarked domain name and is using it in a way that might confuse or deceive customers, then you have legal recourse. You can take the person or company to federal court for domain name trademark infringement and seek damages for any financial losses you may have incurred, like lost sales or income.
Opening a Trademark Domain Name Dispute
You can also open a trademark domain name dispute with an approved dispute resolution service provider. This process resolves disputes over registering and using domain names that are identical or confusingly similar to trademarks. You’ll need to provide evidence, like documentation from your trademark registration.
Is a Domain Name Intellectual Property?
A domain name can be considered intellectual property under trademark law if used to identify a business or its products/services. It must also contain exclusive words/phrases. Generic terms may not be eligible for trademark protection.
Trademarking your domain name gives you exclusivity, protection, and added value for your business, goods, or services. You should take the time to understand how trademarking works and what steps you must take to secure your domain name as an official trademark.
Next Steps: What Now?
- Learn everything you need to know about trademarks at the USPTO website
- Make your business domain name worth it with the best website builders
- Research which domain names are available for trademarking on the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)
- Estimate your costs for trademarking at the USPTO website
- Learn everything you need to know about domain privacy
- Familiarize yourself with subdomains