Domain Names and Trademarks FAQ

What happens if there is a conflict between an Internet domain name and an existing trademark?

Even if a company owns a federally registered trademark, someone else may still have the right to the domain name. For example, many different companies have federally registered the trademark Executive for different goods or services. All of these companies may want but the first one to purchase it—in this case, Executive Software—is the one that acquired the domain name and has the rights to it.

Sometimes a person (known as a cybersquatter) registers a trademark as a domain name hoping to later profit by reselling the domain name back to the trademark owner. If you believe that someone has taken a domain in bad faith, you can either sue under the provisions of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), or you can fight the cybersquatter using an international arbitration system created by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The ACPA defines cybersquatting as registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with the intent to profit in bad faith from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else. The ICANN arbitration system is considered by trademark experts to be faster and less expensive than suing under the ACPA, and the procedure does not require an attorney. For information on the ICANN policy, visit the ICANN site.

Courts and arbitrators generally side with trademark owners in these disputes and order the cybersquatter to stop using the trademarked name. For more information on trademark law, see Domain Names and Trademark Law.

If you discover that the domain name you want to use has already been registered, see What to Do If the Domain Name You Want Is Taken for more.

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