How to trademark my website and domain name?
A domain name refers to a series of words separated by periods (or dots) which serves to identify an IP address. For example, in the domain name www.julythe14th.info, .info is the top-level domain or TLD, while julythe14th is the second-level domain name.
The registration of a domain name is a procedure which allows your domain name and the corresponding IP address to figure in its domain zone file. While the routers that serve to transfer data via the Web consult these zone files, they will determine which machine you use, so, in case your domain name is deleted from the registry, both routers and users won't be able to see your website by entering your domain name.
There exist more than 250 top-level domains, like .com, .biz, .org, .us, .uk etc. Such domain name extensions as .com, .net and .org are available to any registrant, implying the "first-come, first-served" policy. However, if you want to resister a domain name with extensions like .biz, .name or even .gov, make sure you are ready to meet certain registry requirements, as some of these top-level domains are restricted.
While running an online business, you would better buy not only the rights for .com, but also for such domain name extensions as .org, .biz, .info and .net, so that your competitors won't be able to gain your prospects by registering the same second-level domain name.
Choosing the right second-level domain name isn't easy, and it is becoming more difficult day after day, as hundreds of websites appear regularly. In fact, the best domain names practically in all niches are already taken, so one should have outstanding creativity and imagination to invent something eye-catching and easy-to-remember. According to the stats provided by DomainsBot Labs, nouns, grouped in two or three, are an ideal choice for domain name, boosting the search engine rating up to 90-100% SERPs. Such combinations as a noun with a verb are also in demand, while figures and hyphens are not off the hook.
Another important consideration is which words to use exactly. Of course, starting a business one may want to give the company his/her own glorious name. Nevertheless, business experts recommend to choose the words that are closely associated with the company's products or services rather than with the name of its owner. In addition, using well-known words you prevent your potential clients from misspelling your domain name and getting nowhere. On the other hand, buying the wrong domain name as well is a powerful strategy which will help you to find those prospects who got lost on the overcrowded Web and to redirect them to your website.
Once you have chosen the domain name for your site, check whether it is available using your registration company or whois.com which lists occupied domain names and gives contact addresses of their owners.
However, taking the domain name that wasn't listed doesn't mean you observe the trademark law automatically. The fact is that the "first-come, first-served" rule is valid only in case one doesn't infringe someone else's trademark.
A trademark stands for any word, symbol or their combination used in commerce to distinguish one seller or manufacturer from the others. Defending their label from imitators and swindlers, mark owners have to resort to all kinds of methods, yet sometimes the latter prove to be completely useless. Once a trademark isn't associated with a definite manufacturer or seller, being applied to the product itself or, that is the next step, to all similar products, its owner incurs losses, as customers aren't interested particularly in his/her product any longer.
With the appearance of the Internet the life of trademark owners has grown even harder. Not everyone can afford to register all the domain name variations, followed by all types of extensions. That is why trademark owners should take every measure to protect their authenticity from infringers. Thus, filing a UDRP (Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy) complaint can be very helpful in case someone violated your rights. Under the law, the defendant must indemnify the trademark registrant for lost profits or damages and, in some cases, even award attorney's fees.
However, prevention is still the best protective technique. So, before calling the infringer to account, make sure you trademarked your domain name properly.
The first step is to carry out a trademark search to check whether the name you want doesn't violate the existing trademarks. You can conduct this search using the official website of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If you registered a domain name which conflicts with other's trademark, you may be considered a mark infringer and lose the rights to your domain name. All in all, don't hesitate to spend some time on preliminary research, otherwise you may lose more than you have ever expected.
After that you should fill out an application. In the USA there are three types of trademark applications: use "application" for those who have already used the mark for commercial purposes, "intent-to-use" for those who are going to do so, and an application for those who registered the trademark abroad. After you have filled out an application you can submit it via the online USPTO's Trademark Electronic Application System. Don't forget to provide a drawing of the mark along with the filing fee, and be ready to wait as long as 4 months.
Finally, if the registration procedure was performed without a hitch, think about how to protect your trademark. To show your rights you can use such symbols as TM, SM or "(R)". You should also take into consideration that the federal registration lasts 10 years and has to be regularly renewed.
Following these simple rules you can be sure your domain name and trademark are safe, protected by the law. Moreover, now you know how to choose the right domain name which won't conflict with someone else's trademark, as well as how to register your own mark in a proper way. You should of course consult a trademark attorney.