Trademark Basics: When Domain Names Aren’t Enough

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When thinking of names and brands, most entrepreneurs focus on the domain name. You know that if you can’t get your hands on the domain name you want, it’s next to impossible to establish a business under that name.

Your brand is your identity; you need to make sure that you own it and have a right and a claim against anyone else who might also care to use that brand.

Unfortunately, owning a domain name doesn’t mean that you are ready to launch a business under that name. There are a number of ways in which you can own a domain name and still run into trouble when starting a business under that name.

Here are some examples:

1) Big companies have lots of brands, and don’t necessarily own the domains for all of them

Many companies have products and services that they have developed that they don’t feel the need to register the domain for. That’s probably a mistake from their perspective, but it’s also problematic if you are operating under the assumption that there’s no one out there who has already trademarked your domain name. Take the time to check that no one has obtained a trademark on your domain or on your brand.

2) Misspellings and different spellings

Perhaps you own the domain name startupwerx.com, but if you there’s a company out there that owns a trademark on startupworks or startupwerqs, you probably won’t be able to own that brand, at least not if you’re in the same industry. There are services out there that check all misspellings and alternative spellings for you. It’s worth your time to look into them.

3) Similar Name, Same Industry

Los Angeles-based Bell Computers is a render farm solutions company headquartered out of Los Angeles. When they went to register their trademark, Dell Computers objected, saying that there was a likelihood of confusion by customers who saw Bell Computers and thought they were associated with Dell. Dell won on their objection, which meant that Bell Computers had to change its brand to Bell Technologies DBA Bell Computers.

Branding and marketing are complicated processes. If you want to build your business on a solid foundation and have confidence that you have a right to operate under the brands you’ve chosen, the proper first step is trademark registration with the US Patent and Trademark Organization.

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