Does my business need a trademark for my website domain name?

Jun 27, 2018 | Business Tips

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Kevin Fouche

Does my business need a trademark for my website domain name?

Posted by Kevin Fouche, Pixel Fish Director

Kevin handles the planning, design, launch and training of every website that Pixel Fish creates. He ensures that every website is highly engaging and aligned with our client’s goals. With over 20 years of design and web industry experience to draw upon, Kevin aims to pass on his knowledge to our clients and like-minded businesses wanting to grow their online presence.

When planning the online branding strategy for your business, you will need to consider trademarks and how they can protect your brand. For many business owners, finding the right domain name is their only and immediate concern. It is worth investing the time to confirm your domain name is protectable so that your brand retains its true value. So,. Does my business need a trademark for my website domain name?

Registering a domain name does not give you exclusive rights to use the name however you wish. The exclusive rights to your business name is only gained when you register your business name as a trademark.

Does my business need a trademark for my website domain name?

What exactly is a registered trademark?

A registered trademark provides its owner exclusive rights to use the trademark (within specified classes of goods and services) within the jurisdiction in which it has been registered. You will find in most countries, there are around 45 different classes of goods and services under which you can register trademarks. Make sure you register your business’ trademark in every class in which you are trading (or intend to trade). Remember, the registered trademark owner has the legal right to prevent anyone else from using the trademark, within those classes of goods or services, without consent. In addition, the registered trademark owner can ask for compensation for unauthorised use.

Should I have a trademark for an online-only business?

Your online customer base has the potential to be geographically diverse. Consider whether your trademark will be legally protected in all of the main geographic areas your online trade comes from.

You can apply for trademarks country by country, however, if you want broad international coverage, you may want to firstly cover all EU member states by applying for a European Union Trademark (EUTM). Next, you can make a single application to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (using your EUTM trademark registration) to apply for trademark registrations in over 90 countries.

What are the risks if I do not register my business name as a trademark?

Before you use your business’ domain name, you must check that no other business has secured a trademark for that domain name – or one that is strikingly similar. If you begin trading online and your name is the same, or confusingly similar, a registered trademark within the same industry, you may find yourself at the wrong end of a costly infringement action and possibly liable to pay compensation.

Securing your business name as a trademark may also prevent cybersquatting. Cybersquatters register a domain name that is the same (or almost the same as) a legitimate, official business to try to trick people. Often the customer is redirected away to another website.

Without a registered trademark, you may leave yourself exposed to legal action. Owners of trademarked business names can prevent other businesses from trading and seek financial compensation for damages. Registering a domain name does not mean you own the name, you are simply given a licence to use the name for a period of time. In the case of trademark infringement, your domain name licence would be revoked by the domain name regulatory body (auDA).  The domain name would then be offered to the trademark owner.

Consider the catastrophic impact this situation would have on your business if you lost your domain name!

If your business is online only, you must remember that your domain name is your entire brand identity. Protecting your web address is an essential step to safeguard your brand’s identity, not to mention as a security measure to continue to uphold your online rankings.

When you decide to trademark your business name, you are protecting your brand identity and potentially avoiding some nasty experiences down the track. Remember, your business name, company name and domain name do not give you exclusive ownership rights to use your business name, as only a trademark affords you exclusive proprietary rights. Registering your business name as a trademark enables you to take advantage of the many IP protections offered to online businesses under the law.

To ensure your business, domain and website are safeguarded, the best strategy is to register your domain name and combine this with trademark registration. Your trademark is a valuable marketing tool, and as your business’s success increases, so does your trademark’s value increase!

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Kevin Fouché, Pixel Fish Director