If you’ve just registered that awesome domain name for your website, you might be wondering whether you can protect it by patenting it with the USPTO. Patents offer inventors a monopoly over their inventions for a limited period of time. Utility patents offer 20 years of protection from the date that the patent grants your utility patent application. So, can a domain name be patented? We will answer this below.
Can You Patent a Domain Name?
The short answer is: no, you cannot patent a domain name. Unfortunately, patent law does not protect domain names. That said, if you have an important domain name, you might be able to protect it by registering your domain name as a trademark with the USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office).
Having said that, to register your domain name as a trademark, you have to use your domain name in connection with the sale of goods or services. Said differently, you have to use it as a brand for a product or service that you’re offering to the public.
Why Can’t You Patent a Domain Name?
Domain names can’t be patented because they are not covered by patent law. The patent office currently offers two types of patents. The first type of patent is a utility patent and inventors use them to protect new inventions, machines, and processes. The second type of patent is a design patent and they protect new and unique designs, such as the shape of a beverage bottle. Domain names fall outside the scope of the type of intellectual property that they protect.
That said, if you’re using your domain name to identify you or your business as the source of goods or services, the more appropriate intellectual property (IP) protection would be trademark law. Said differently, if you are selling something on your website or you’re offering a service, you can protect your domain name by registering it with the trademark office.
How do You Trademark Your Domain Name?
You can trademark your domain name by visiting the USPTO website and filing a trademark application to register your domain name as a trademark. You will have to provide the trademark office with some basic information, such as your name, the name of your business, your address, and the domain name or combination of words that you want to trademark.
After preparing your trademark application, you can file it online by following the instructions and paying the trademark application fees. The trademark office (USPTO) charges $225 for each class of trademark that you want to register. For example, if you’re using your domain name to sell shirts and coffee mugs, you may have to pay $225 for each class of goods. If you’re only offering one service, you will only need to pay the $225.
After submitting your application and paying the applicable fees to the trademark office, your trademark application will be assigned a serial number. You can and should use that serial number to periodically check the status of your trademark application.
Make sure that you periodically check the status of your application because the trademark office will often update the status of your application and they may require you to make changes to your application or they may request items and documents from you.
Why Should You Do Before Filing a Trademark to Protect Your Domain Name?
Before prepare and filing a trademark application to protect a domain name, an individual must choose a domain name or combination of words that no one else has used on products or services that are similar to the ones you want to offer on your website. So, how do you determine whether someone else has registered your domain name?
You can conduct a trademark search on the USPTO website. They have a basic trademark search tool that you can use. Simply enter the word or combination of words that you want to search for, as well as different variations of those words and if the search turns up results that are confusingly similar to the words you want to trademark, consider registering a different domain name. However, if you find that your trademark won’t confuse anyone, you can proceed to prepare and file a trademark application for your domain name.
Benefits of Registering Your Domain Name as a Trademark
There are many benefits associated with registering your domain name as a trademark with the trademark office, here are some of the benefits:
- Increasing Familiarity with Your Brand
By registering your trademark with the trademark office, you will be able to use your trademark to market your product or service to the public. If you successfully market your product, your customers will become familiar with your trademark. By registering your mark you can keep others from using and tarnishing the reputation of your trademark.
- Protecting Your Trademark From Infringement
When you register your trademark with the trademark office, you will be able to add the ® registered logo to your trademark. Adding this mark sends a message to infringers that you’ve taken legal steps to protect your trademark, giving infringers a reason not to use it on their own products.
- Appeal to Your Customers
If your domain name is appealing to the visitors of your website, registering it with the trademark office will prevent others from registering domain names that are similar to yours, so that you can continue to be the only person using the domain name to offer your goods or services to the public.
- Legal Protection
By registering your domain name with the trademark office, you can sue parties that infringe upon your trademark in federal court. Registering your domain name will put you in a good position to win a lawsuit against anyone who misuses or infringes upon your trademark.
How Much Does it Cost to Register Your Domain Name Trademark?
The trademark office charges $225 for an individual to register his trademark the USPTO. The $225 only applies if an individual prepares and files his own trademark application. If you don’t know how to prepare and file the trademark application on your own, you have the option of hiring an attorney to assist you with the preparation of your trademark application. Attorneys typically charge $1,000 to $2,000 to prepare and file a trademark application on behalf of a person.
Can a Person Protect Their Domain Name in Any Other Way?
Unfortunately, no. The only way that we can think of to protect a domain name is to register it with the trademark office. Patent law protects new inventions, processes, machines, and designs. Copyright law does not domain names, phrases, titles, and slogans. So, the only option that’s left is to register your trademark with the trademark office.
What Can You Do If Someone Uses Your Trademarked Domain Name?
If someone uses your exact domain or a confusingly similar domain name, you will be able to enforce your rights under trademark law by asking them to seize their infringing use. If they don’t comply with your request, you can then sue them in federal court for infringing upon your trademark. If you’re successful in your lawsuit, you may be able to obtain a court order, ordering them to seize their infringing activities.
When Can’t a Person Register His Domain Name as a Trademark?
A person cannot register his domain name as a trademark if he’s not using the domain name as a brand for the products or services. Said differently, the trademark office will not allow you to register your domain name if people are only using it to find your website. The story is different if a person is using the domain name as a brand for his products or services. If a person is offering products for sale or services for sale, he may be successful in registering his domain name as a trademark. This is especially true if customers associate the domain name with a product or services that a person is offering.
Patenting a Domain Name
By now, it’s quite apparent that while someone cannot patent a domain name, he can protect his intellectual property by obtaining a trademark on that domain name. The benefit of trademark registration should encourage people to protect their mark by registering it. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.