There was a good article today in the UK edition of Business Weekly, and although it wasn’t targeted to domain investors, it’s advice that should certainly be considered by domain investors when purchasing domain names. The article was written by a lawyer named Kevin Calder, a partner at the Mills & Reeve, LLP law firm.
Essentially the advice that Mr. Calder gives is that business owners who want to use a particular domain name would be well served to research the trademark database in their country and perhaps others to ensure that the domain name will not infringe on the trademarks of others. While some people purposely purchase infringing domain names to generate PPC revenue, others may unwittingly purchase a domain name that infringes on a trademark.
Not only could a domain owner face a UDRP dispute for a domain name, but there’s the potential for severe financial penalties. If the name is bought in the aftermarket and legal action is taken, the domain name can’t be sold during the proceedings, which will tie up the investor’s funds, add costs to his acquisition with a defense, and could put the investor at risk to lose up to $100,000 in the US on a ACPA case.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Doing some research before buying a domain name can save you the hassle and expense of legal action, especially if the domain name is of the “brandable” nature and not descriptive/generic. Some resources you can use to research a trademark are the USPTO in the US and Intellectual Property Office in the UK.
Sadly, businesses (especially new or small businesses) never hire an attorney for help on the front end like this. But they always end up paying more for the back end problems!