|Protecting Your Business Name
Trademark and the Internet
Internet traffic is growing faster than any other information medium in history. Recent statistics indicate that more than
100,000 people obtain internet access every four months.
Through the medium of the World Wide Web, commerce has become a main focus of internet traffic. Now, cyber-malls are appearing at a rapid pace allowing people to purchase everything from software, toys and games to automobiles and homes. As a direct result, many legal issues have arisen with regard to the new and rapidly growing communication network.
What is the Internet?
The term "internet" refers to a network of lines originally developed for military communication. The "World Wide Web" refers to the form of communication which occurs across this network allowing users to see graphic color, hear sound and exchange information. It also allows users to place information on the internet which is accessible to anyone with internet access. The location of this information is called a "web site."
A web site may provide a personal biography, a company advertisement, or newsworthy information. The popularity of the internet and its rapid growth is primarily due to it's user friendly nature. All you really need to operate on the internet is a computer with a modem and a finger for pressing keys.
Commerce on the Web
Every computer connected with the internet and every web site has an address which is referred to as an IP address. This is essentially a group of numbers separated by decimals which may look something like 2233.432.757.209. Companies, however, usually seek to convert those numbers into a form that more recognizable and memorable. This is called a "Domain Name." For example, The Beaulier Law Office might have the domain name of "beaulier.com." (Catchy, isn't it! ). In fact, for this web site we use several domain names for each different area of law. We use http://www.criminal-law.tv, http://www.criminal-defense.tv, http://www.workvisalawyers.com and others.
Domain names may be registered with on a first-come first-serve basis. We recommend that you click Home Page Names for your domain name registrations.
The registration of domain names raises many difficulties with regard to trademarks and trademark infringement.
Domain Names and Trademarks.
Imagine that you are Fisher Price Toys. You obviously will want to reach the consumer to sell toys. As a result, you seek to register a domain name which allows consumers to find you easily. To do so, you register "fisherprice.com." However, what if in registering that domain name you discover that your name has been taken by Bob Price who provides fishing guide services in Hibbing, Minnesota.
Additionally, trademark issues arise from the structure of current trademark laws. The same trademark may be given to different companies in different geographic locations. However, on the internet, any web site has World Wide accessibility. That means when people in Japan, the United States and Asia enter the same domain name, they view exactly the same text and images. This raises two questions:
- How to protect your trademark name on the World Wide Web; and
- How to get the domain name that will most easily allow the consumer to find your website.
We suggest using Legalname.Com to perform a business name search or to immediately seek trademark or Copyright Protection.
There are some current options to Resolve Domain Name Disputes:
- NSI Dispute Policy. A company registering a domain name with NSI must represent that name it has chosen does not interfere with any other party's rights. NSI will process the domain name so long as there in not another identical domain name in existence. However, if a dispute occurs over a domain name, NSI may apply procedures which are agreed to as part of the domain name registration process. The domain name in dispute is placed on "hold" status until the dispute is resolved either by settlement, arbitration of court order.
- Litigation. This is a highly costly method of resolving disputes to both parties. The outcome may depend on who has previously registered the domain name and why. Courts are not generally favorable to persons registering domain names to hold it for ransom when a large company ultimately decides to register that domain name. If the domain name was registered for a valid purpose, the Courts try to determine if it likely that customers will be confused by a similar domain name.
Settlement. Most parties to domain name disputes settle their issues. It is usually the more cost effective way or resolving the issues. A company may pay a small fee to "purchase" the domain name from its registered owner. Generally, the fee paid is related to the anticipated cost of litigation. For example, when McDonald's Corporation found that "mcdonald's.com" was already registered by a party, they purchased the name for an undisclosed sum of money.
In other cases, domain name issues have been resolved with the registered owner placing a disclaimer on his/her website indicating that it does not represent the company with the similar name and including a link to that company's site. That is exactly what the internet service company deltaComm Development has done on its website. On its website it disclaims affiliations with Delta Air Lines, delta Books, Delta Faucets and a number of other companies.
To protect a trademark on the internet, a company must file with the appropriate domestic and international registrars. Although that does not guarantee a company a domain name, the dispute resolution systems favor the company that perfects its trademark. We suggest using Legalname.Com to perform a business name search or to immediately seek trademark or Copyright Protection.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON FORMING YOUR BUSINESS CALL ATTORNEY MAURY D. BEAULIER
Call (612) 240-8005
for a free consultation
Minnesota Business Law Center
Ask a question on our Bulletin Boards
Ask-A-Lawyer your legal question
Business Legal Forms
Download & Do-It-Yourself
Minnesota Business Listings