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Researching Trademarks Before Registering a Domain Name

Before registering a domain name it is often a wise idea to make sure the name does not infringe any trademarks. United States trademark law is designed to prevent the use of domain names that create consumer confusion about who is responsible for a certain product or service.

One common mistaken belief is that no domain should be registered if it contains a trademark. Given the incredible breadth of trademarks this is often impossible. For example, ‘Chris’ is a registered trademark. Obviously that does not prevent anyone named Chris from registering a domain containing their name.

A good place to start a trademark search is the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Often just called the USPTO. The USPTO has a trademark search system called TESS. You can use to see what trademarks have been filed for. And of the filings and trademarks which have been granted, are pending, are expired, or abandoned.

Another place to search using an Internet search engine. Valid trademarks can be common law trademarks that have not been federally registered.

Once actual and potential trademarks have been identified the next step is to evaluate whether the intended use of the domain could cause a problem with consumer confusion.

Remember that companies if different industries can use the same mark because there is no consumer confusion. For example, there is Delta Faucets and Delta Airlines. Both use the word ‘Delta’ but there is obviously no consumer confusion about which company is responsible for their products.

This means you will to look at a trademark registration and see what categories and products it is registered for. Trademarks have to be associated with particular products. When reviewing the Internet search results it is important to evaluate how the term is being used. Is it a company name? Is there a geographic limitation to the name? Is it a product name? Is there any connection to your intended use?

After this research has been done you should feel better about registering the domain without have a legal concern about a trademark infringement action.


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