A friend in the business told me about an exceptional domain name he had just acquired, and as we were discussing potential buyers, he noticed that the company had an abandoned trademark for the domain name. It was the exact .com trademark, and had it been live, it might have made a nice extra piece of intellectual property to include with a subsequent sale.
I hadn’t really thought about doing this before my conversation, but when you are buying a domain name from someone who has owned it for a while, it might behoove you to do a trademark search at the USPTO to see if that person happens to have a trademark. If there is an active trademark, be sure to include it in the deal.
One reason this is a good idea is so that you can include it if you resell the domain name. Perhaps a future buyer will value the trademark, and having that could be an extra purchase incentive. It can also be used as a negotiating tool to help seal the deal.
Another reason that this trademark search is a good idea is that it will help you see if there are other trademarks that may come into play with your ownership of the domain name (not including a trademark involving the domain name). It’s always a good idea to see what marks are there to help you avoid infringing on the intellectual property of a trademark owner. I like to use the Apple example because there are ways a person could use Apple.com if Apple didn’t own it, although they couldn’t infringe on Apple’s many trademarks.
A final reason (which may or may not be valid) is that there is the potential to get sued by the trademark owner on an exact match domain name trademark. Let’s say you bought A.com and the owner keeps the A.com trademark. Perhaps down the road he will sell his company and the buyer will try to use the trademark to put a claim on the domain name. Again, I am not an expert in law, so this might not be a valid argument, but it’s something to think about.
The next time you buy an aged domain name from a seller who has had it for a while, check to see if there is a trademark for that domain name, and if there is, make sure it’s included in the deal. I can’t see a downside to owning a related trademark, and a thirty second USPTO search can help you find out if there is a mark on it.