Intellectual Property Law Blog

Protecting Your Intellectual Property on the Web

August 6th, 2015

By Bridget H. Labutta, Esq.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas made headlines earlier this year for a reason completely unrelated to his politics. Shortly after Cruz announced his candidacy for the next presidential election, the news media discovered that the presumptive Internet address for the new candidate’s campaign had been “hijacked” and now displayed a message that was contrary to Cruz’s own political stances.

Sen. Cruz is out of luck where TedCruz.com is concerned for a simple reason: the domain name was not “hijacked” at all. The owner of TedCruz.com is an Arizona resident who also is named Ted Cruz. As such, he has just as much claim to the name as the politician, and he beat the senator to the punch a long time ago — records indicate that the domain was registered all the way back in 2004.

Sen. Cruz’s situation highlighted a potential danger that awaits all would-be owners of Internet website addresses: Don’t wait until you have filed to register any trademarks or even until you have finalized your new company’s name to start registering domain names. In today’s digital economy, protecting your online presence – even if you’re not entirely sure what that is yet – should be one of the first steps for a new business venture, not one of the last.

A Small Investment

Registration for most top-level domains, such as .com, .net, or .org, typically costs less than $20 per domain per year. Given that nominal cost, we advise most clients that the prudent course of action is to register every reasonably possible domain name at the earliest possible opportunity after the business venture begins to take shape. That will ensure that you retain control of the domain for whatever name you eventually settle upon for the business, product or service.

At this stage, we recommend that clients stick with registering the domain name only. There is no need to pay for website hosting at this stage. The main goal is to act early to protect your online intellectual property, hopefully before someone else takes the domain you wanted.

After a year, registration on the domains related to the names that were not chosen can be allowed to lapse.

Consider Variations

Once the final domain name has been selected, we advise clients to register all reasonable variants of that name. For example, a bar and grill called the Happy Turtle would want to register “happyturtle.com” and “thehappyturtle.com.”

Also consider grabbing the domains for any common misspellings of a business name. A business with the word “millennium” in its domain name, for example, also should purchase domains that include the spellings “milenium,” “milennium,” “millenium,” and so forth.

Those domain names likely will never host an actual website. Instead, those domains will redirect traffic to the actual, correct domain.

The underlying idea is to treat Internet domain names and the websites they host as what they are today: a vital part of an organization’s intellectual property. Even if the name selected for your domain is not yet a registered trademark, you should protect it as though it is.

If you have questions about how best to protect your digital intellectual property, the IP attorneys of Panitch Schwarze Belisario & Nadel can help. Call us today at 888-291-5676.

 

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