This morning, I woke up to a long (and thoughtful) email asking me an extensive question related to buying a domain name when there are associated trademarks. The person used one of my domain names as an example but told me he was interested in buying a different domain name that he thought had a similar issue.
My response to him was “That is a better question suited for a lawyer with trademark expertise.”
Domain investors need to navigate the world of intellectual property and trademarks when they buy a domain name. Every day investors are buying domain names, they need to analyze legal risk related to owning specific domain names, and looking at trademark filings and live trademarks at the USPTO is one way to evaluate risk. Although investors may have some level of experience with trademarks and intellectual property law, most do not have expertise in this field.
If someone has a question about domain names related to IP or trademark law, I always tell them to speak with a lawyer. In fact, a domain name attorney likely has the expertise to answer specific questions about domain names that are related to trademarks. A lawyer with domain industry expertise will be able to help the investor (or whomever has the questions) evaluate the risk associated with buying or selling a domain name.
I understand why someone might ask me or another investor a question about domain names and trademark law. Most investors have a fair amount of experience dealing with these kinds of issues, and it’s a lot less expensive to ask an investor for their opinion than asking a lawyer. That being said, if an investor (or I) provide an answer that is not accurate or only partially answers the question, it could be more harmful than helpful.
When it comes to issues of law, I think it is better to pay an attorney take a look rather than asking for free advice and hoping for the best. Asking questions before making a purchase is a good idea, but if the questions aren’t being asked to the right person, the answer may not be helpful.