Fact Sheets
Global Trademark Resources
Fact Sheets
Domain Names and the Internet

Differences Between Trademarks and Domain Names

Fact Sheets Review in Progress

(For general information on domain names, see Domain Names)

1. Do I file for a domain name with the local patent and trademark office?

No, you file a domain name application with a registrar accredited with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). A worldwide listing of companies currently accredited and operational can be found on the ICANN website.

For information on filing a trademark with a local patent and trademark office, see Filing a Trademark Application in the United States and Filing for a Trademark Outside of the United States.

2. If I have a trademark, do I have a domain name?

No, a trademark is not the same thing as a domain name. A trademark identifies goods or services from a particular source, or of a defined quality. If a trademark owner would like to use its trademark as its domain name, the owner must apply for a domain name registration with an ICANN-accredited registrar.

In certain instances, a trademark owner may benefit from ownership of its mark when it comes to domain name registration. For example, when a new TLD or ccTLD is launched (see Domain Names fact sheet for definitions of these terms), there will be a "sunrise period," which allows trademark owners to apply for domain names that correspond with their registered trademarks before the domain name registration process opens up to the general public. However, this is not an automatic process and the trademark owner must take active steps to register the domain name.

3. If I have a domain name, do I have a trademark?

Not necessarily. A domain name in and of itself is not the same thing as a trademark. Use of a domain name merely as an informational part of the domain holder's Internet address does not qualify as trademark use. Examples of a domain name used only as an Internet address include a domain name that only displays in the Internet address bar, a domain name that merely redirects website traffic to another website, a domain name used in close proximity to language referring to the domain name as an address or a domain name displayed merely as part of the contact information for the domain name owner.

To qualify as a trademark or service mark, the domain name must function as a mark; that is, it must serve as an indicator of source and not merely as an informational part of an Internet Web address. If the domain name functions separately as an indicator of source, the domain name may be registered with the appropriate trademark office as a trademark or service mark. For example, a domain name that is displayed prominently and frequently on a webpage itself might function as a trademark.

Key in determining if use of a domain name rises to the level of a trademark usage is whether it is viewed by consumers as a symbol of origin separate and apart from anything else.

4. Does a domain name expire?

Yes, it does. The date will depend on the agreed upon term of registration between the domain name registrant and registrar. A domain name registrant can renew the registration if he or she so desires.

Similarly, if a trademark is not renewed before the due date, the registration expires. For more information on trademark renewal, see Maintenance and Renewal.

Additional INTA Resources

Topic Portal: Internet
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