Domain names vs. trademarks

Domain name ≠ trademark. From a trademark application perspective, domain names don’t mean much. (Simply owning a domain does not establish use or lay claim to any rights.)

If you were proactive and purchased a domain (or several) to host a website for your forthcoming business, you might be thinking “I’ve got a jump on this whole trademark thing.” Not to rain on your virtual parade, but if you’re not actually using them, they count for little when it comes to registering that mark. Mere ownership of a domain does not show use of the trademark in commerce and, if the website is not active, the inaccessibility of a domain may not be enough to deter other potential applicants who may want to register a similar name.

Furthermore, the availability of one or more domain name variations does not necessarily indicate clear sailing to a trademark registration. There are myriad reasons why a trademark holder may not have already purchased a particular domain and it can be foolhardy to jump to the conclusion of “the web address was available, so the trademark will be also.” A quick Google search will, however, be a good start in determining whether your ideal name – or names – is, shall we say, open for business. Before you assume that a name is going to be a sure trademark success just because you own the domain, you may want to consider springing for a trademark screening to light your way forward