With fears of corporate identity theft on the rise, more and more companies are trademarking their domain names. While this step isn’t essential, it can offer an additional level of security to your business’s online presence.
Trademarking your domain name can give you recourse should someone else attempt to register a similar domain — if their intent is to deceive or steal your customers. For example, it’s very likely that someone trying to register amazonbooks.com could be considered as infringing on Amazon.com’s trademark.
Your domain name, especially if it is the same as your company’s name, is a vital link to customers in more ways than one. It’s very easy to misspell a domain name, or insert an extra character and end up on a completely different site. One case in particular, resulted when an adult site took the popular name of an Internet search engine and added an extra “o” at the end. Many unsuspecting people ended up at the wrong site and mistakenly thought that the original site was to blame for the objectionable content.
If your domain is trademarked, you’d be protected if something like this happened to your company. One bad impression can quickly snowball, and it is important to stay on top of the situation. Try to frequently check on similar domain names just to make sure that someone is not infringing on your name, or coming dangerously close to hijacking your customers.
If your business is primarily (or exclusively) an online enterprise, you should definitely consider trademarking your name. For example, Amazon.com and Yahoo.com couldn’t even conduct business without their domain names; their domains are their business names. If this is the case with your company, give serious thought to securing it as a trademark.
Trademarking isn’t cheap. Expect to spend anywhere from $350 if you fill out and submit your paperwork yourself to more than $5000 if you hire an attorney to take care of it for you. You’ll need to determine whether or not this is an expense you’re willing to incur to protect your domain name.
On the other hand, if your domain simply describes what you sell and isn’t your company’s name — for example, if your company name is Ted’s Tool Shed, and your domain is cheaptools.com — trademarking the domain wouldn’t be nearly as important.
Another tactic you could consider would be registering various permutations of your domain to protect your interests, including your domain with the other TLD extensions (.org. .net, etc.). But the cost of registering a multitude of domains and paying annual renewal fees can approach or even exceed what trademarking might cost.
Is trademarking right for you? You’ll need to weigh the potential costs and benefits to decide. Consider getting an opinion from an attorney well-versed in Internet and trademark law. An attorney will have invaluable insight into the vagaries of trademark law, and can advise you on whether or not it’s even possible to trademark your domain. It can be very difficult to trademark common phrases, such as our cheaptools.com example, and have it hold up in an infringement case.