Law Office of David MacTavish, LLC
Chicago metro area
A domain name can be much more than a website address. It also can be a personal name, company (trade) name, or a trademark. However, problems can then arise. A nearly identical domain name may siphon away business. Another firm might use your personal or business name or trademark as their domain name and cause consumer confusion. Before you registered your domain name(s) or trademark(s) did you check to see if there similar or identical marks or domain names? Perhaps you've owned a domain name for some time and you've just discovered someone else has bought it or is infringing it, what if anything can you do?
Because domain names can come to designate the source of goods or services in the same way as trademarks, trademark law is often involved in the selection and maintenance of domain names. Registering a domain like www.american-airlines.com, for example, to attempt to sell the domain to a firm owning a similar trademark or trade name will likely give rise to a lawsuit. Yet, there are times when you can purchase domain names on speculation and attempt to sell domain names, even if the sales prospect objects. If you have purchased or intend to purchase domain names with the intent of selling them to others, you may be wise to consult an attorney to better understand the limits in this area of commerce.
Trouble can arise when a domain appears to be little more than a device used to draw business from another firm through confusing similarity with the other firm's domain or trademark. Domain registration companies will register any domain without regard to it's infringing potential–it isn't their job to police potential wrong use. For example, the Holiday Inn company, holder of the www.holidayinn.com domain, will likely bring legal action against anyone registering the domains www.holidayin.com or holiday-in.com especially if the domains are used in conjunction with websites at all related to the travel business.
Because a trademark is viewed as a mini–monopoly, the law generally does not permit you to use your personal name as a trademark and preclude all others from using the same or a similar name in business. Therefore, it may not be possible to stop someone from using a personal name in a domain. Court decisions in this area of the law have resulted in mixed results because of the wide differences in facts presented.
Domain names can be registered as trademarks, with at least the same difficulty and a few differences.
When you want to select a domain name for business, register a domain as a trademark, or if you are having domain problems, the Law Office of David MacTavish, LLC can address your needs and questions. Give us a call.