A business may consider using a trademark to protect its name and brand as well as to identify itself in the market. It is important for the business to include their domain name in this process.
Businesses generally want to use a domain name that is interesting and will drive traffic to their website. However, it if it legally conflicts with a commercial name that is already in use, it can present a risk to the business.
Business owners may be unaware that the first commercial user of the trademark owns it and if another person or business infringes on that right, that person or business will have to stop using the trademark and may be responsible for paying damages to the trademark owner.
Also, if the owner of the trademark can demonstrate to a judge or arbitrator that the business is using the domain name in a way that can cause customer confusion, the business may be prevented from using the trademark.
This may apply when a misleading domain name causes customers confusion about the source of a product or service, for example. Usually, customer confusion is an issue when the trademark name is distinctive.
To avoid choosing a domain name that infringes on another person’s trademark rights, business owners can search the trademark database maintained by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This database can inform business owners about existing trademarks that are the same or similar to the trademark they want to use.
An experienced attorney can assist business owners with their questions about domain names and provide representation in other trademark law matters.