When I first started buying domain names in around 2003, I didn’t understand the legalities of registering domain names that contained trademarks. In fact, I registered a few domain names that were infringing on the marks of other companies. After getting a cease and desist letter from one company and giving the registration fee domain name to them, I decided I didn’t want to take a chance with this type of name.
In going through my portfolio to try and sell some names to end users, I realized that I have a few names that aren’t as generic as I once thought.
I own a number of city-keyword domain names, and I started looking through them to sell a few to end user buyers. I own quite a few cityMortgage.com and cityMortgages.com domain names. One is a city in Texas with somewhere around 100,000 people, and I am sure many of the city’s homeowners have mortgages, and there are a number of companies offering mortgages in this city.
In doing some research, I found that there is a bank in Maryland that uses the Texas city name + Bank (I don’t want to draw attention to the name I own, so I am leaving the bank name out). Without getting into legalities since I am not a legal expert, it would probably be okay to sell this City Mortgages.com name to a mortgage company in Texas, but if I pitched it to the Bank in Maryland, they could very well claim trademark infringement. I suppose they could do that anyway, but having an email from me offering to sell the name would make their case stronger.
Point of this post is that when you do reach out to end users to sell generic domain names, you need to be sure that the domain name is actually generic. I almost sent this bank an email assuming they were located in the city rather than using the name as their trademark, and had I not seen the Maryland area code on the site, I probably would have sent it.
There are many generic terms that are used by companies to form distinctive trademarks, and there is a whole lot of gray area, so use caution.