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Domain Names and the Internet

Differences Between Trademarks and Domain Names

Updated, June 2015

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

No. You file an application to register a domain name with a registrar accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). A worldwide directory of ICANN-accredited domain name registrars and registrar contact information are available on the ICANN website.

Domain Names Fact Sheet
Filing a Trademark Application in the United States Fact Sheet
Filing a Trademark Application Outside the United States Fact Sheet

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 purchase the domain name registration from 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 top-level domain (TLD) or country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is launched, there will be a “sunrise period,” which allows trademark owners to apply for domain names that correspond with their registered trademarks before domain name registration 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 name holder’s Internet address does not qualify as trademark use. Following are examples of a domain name used only as an Internet address:

  • A domain name that displays only in the Internet address bar
  • A domain name that merely redirects website traffic to another website
  • A domain name that is used in close proximity to language referring to the domain name as an address
  • A domain name that is 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 address. If the domain name functions separately as an indicator of source, it 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 might function as a trademark.

A key factor in determining whether the use of a domain name rises to the level of trademark use is whether consumers view the domain name as a symbol of origin separate and apart from anything else.

4. Does a domain name expire?

Yes. The expiration date will depend on the contractually agreed-upon term of registration between the domain name registrant and the registrar. A domain name registrant can renew the registration if it so desires.

Similarly, if a trademark is not renewed before the due date, the registration expires. See Maintenance and Renewal Fact Sheet.

Additional INTA Resource

Topic Portal: Internet
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