You need to stand out in order to run a successful business. Your skill set, your professionalism, the quality of your products and services – all paramount if you wish to succeed. But, an important part of standing out is your name, your brand, your trademark. Building up your brand, your company’s “personality” is almost as important as the products and services you offer. And to that end, you should start with your domain name.
With a good domain name that is the same or similar to your business moniker, people will find you more easily. They may even stumble upon your website, and find out you are just what they are looking for. This may seem silly, but for a simple investment of a bit of your time and even less money, you get a potentially high passive stream of income.
Check if it’s already taken
This is one, and most important, step that people miss all too often. And this is not just because they forget, but because they simply don’t know how. Of course, ego tends to get in the way too. Now, the best and easiest way to check is to go online and find a registry with domain names. Unfortunately, a comprehensive list of these is outside the scope of this article, because they vary from country to country.
Once you enter one of these registries, type in the domain you are interested in. Of course, this means you have that dose of creativity you need to create your very own brand name. Going to general won’t do you any good.
You can trademark in advance
Know that in certain areas you can get a trademark or domain name in advance. We all know starting a business isn’t easy, and doing this as soon as possible is one less headache. Like the previous point, this varies from region to region. However, know that in most developed countries this exists. You just need to ask around. For example, in America, this special “intent-to-use” trademark is under the umbrella of the U.S. Patent office. The same may just be true in your country as well.
This will then technically reserve this domain name for you, and you only. However, know that these will often also have a limit for this reservation. Once they get used, they will become a proper trademark. If you don’t use them by then, it becomes void and up for grabs again.
A domain name is not the same as a regular trademark
Remember that a domain name is not the same as a trademark. This means that even if a company has a complete and registered trademark, if they haven’t bought the relevant domain yet, well, tough luck. Even if the trademark has been registered for decades, there is nothing stopping somebody from buying a domain name that is identical to that company’s business moniker.
However, there are cases where people bought domain names in order to sell them later. This is called “cybersquatting” and is regulated by law. In fact, there are certain Consumer Protection Acts that help with this kind of thing. Most of the time, the court sides with the trademark owners since its pretty clear that the cybersquatters are acting in bad faith.
Figure out whether your domain name is valid
Now, in order to a domain name to be valid, it needs to be connected to a website that is not private. By this, we mean that they offer their services, options, and work, to the public domain. However, if you want them to actually get trademarked, i.e. protected, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind. They can’t be too generic or common (sports.com, for example). What they need to be, however, is as distinctive as possible. This all means that no, a company cannot just trademark a general phrase, and then sue everyone who uses it.
It’s a fine line to figure out, and asking for advice can go a long way. You may even get assistance at whatever office or website you decide to apply your domain name at.
Don’t be afraid to get help
If you, on the other hand, feel that your domain name is challenged, you should take immediate action. In case anyone wants to dispute the domain name you have, contacting a professional is warmly advised. A proper, specialized attorney can make the whole protection process go much smoother, and will increase the chances of you winning this case. Not only that, but this means they will protect you better and will minimize any damage that may have been directed towards your reputation. The longer you procrastinate, the more they will abuse this domain name.
Furthermore, you can get some general advice on how to set everything up. Things will be much simpler if you have an expert guiding you along the way. Especially if you want to maximize the impact of what you are doing.
If you want to trademark your domain name, you just need to keep a couple of things in mind. First, it’s best if you ask for assistance from an expert. Then, actually check and see if your domain name is valid or not. See if it’s taken by a proper firm, or if some cybersquatter took it. Finally, be patient and if needed, set up the trademark in advance.