A trademark is a distinctive name, symbol, motto, or design that legally identifies a company or its products and services. Your domain name — the word or phrase that identifies your Web site (such as AllBusiness) — may qualify as a legal trademark if you use it in commerce or if you notify the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) that you intend to use it in commerce.
Although you don`t need federal registration to establish your right to a particular trademark or to begin using a trademark, it`s still a good idea when it comes to a domain name. The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently ruled that a business must use its domain name to sell goods or services in order to protect the name — even if a competitor starts to use the name after you registered the domain. In other words, merely reserving a domain name isn`t enough.
Fortunately, it`s easy to register your domain name as a trademark:
Conduct a trademark search. Before you register a domain name, conduct a trademark search to find any trademarks that conflict with the name you want. If the PTO declines your application to register a trademark because it conflicts with an existing trademark, the government will still charge the filing fee. You can do your own trademark search at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site, or you can hire someone to do it for you.