Trademark vs Domain Name

Domain names are critical for e-commerce enterprises. With the rise of business operations on the Internet, domain names have become increasingly important and relevant. Today, domain names function as more than just internet addresses; they also serve as important corporate identities and boosters. 

Often, people get confused between registered trademarks and domain names. Let’s discuss what trademarks and domain names are and how they are different from each other.

The Difference

To put it in layman terms, a domain name means an internet address. It's a URL that visitors type into their browsers to find a website. Each website possesses a domain name, functioning as an address for accessing the website. Typically, domain names end with extensions such as .com, .org, .gov, .net, .in, among others. Since domain names are registered worldwide, no two companies or people may own the same name. 

On the other hand, a Trademark can be described as any sign which can tell apart one’s goods and services from their competitors. This may include the shape of goods, their packaging and combination of colors. When a trademark is registered, the owner of the mark has the exclusive right to use it to differentiate their goods and services from those of competitors. Moreover, trademarks help customers associate a certain set of goods or services with a unique identity. 

So where does the difference lie between these two? Well, for starters, a domain name can be registered even if it isn’t unique, as long as it’s not identical to any other. 

As an example, and can both be registered as domain names. In fact, this is used in a lot of scams these days!

On the other hand, a trademark may face registration challenges if it closely resembles an already registered trademark. If ‘Gooogle’ tried to trademark its name, it would be in trouble!

When considering the time period and its validity, a domain name is valid for as long as the contracted period states and can be further renewed.  But a trademark stands valid only for a period of 10 years from the date of application. Additionally, domain names are required to be registered mandatorily but there are no such obligations in case of registering a trademark.

Is a Domain Name Trademarkable?

You must be wondering if a domain name can be trademarked. Well, the answer to that is yes! Once a domain name is selected, the holder can apply to obtain trademark protection in order to prevent others from using the name. 

A domain name that is distinctive, capable of distinguishing its goods and services from others, and serves as a dependable identifier of relevant goods and services on the internet, is eligible for trademark registration. 

Domain names, when used as trademarks or service marks, are registered and safeguarded globally primarily by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Additionally, they receive national and international protection under respective national trademark laws and various international trademark treaties worldwide. In India, domain names may be granted protection as a trademark or service mark under the provisions of Trademarks Act, 1999.

Understanding the distinctions between trademarks and domain names is crucial for businesses navigating the online landscape. While trademarks protect unique identifiers of goods and services in the marketplace, domain names simply serve as addresses for websites on the internet. 

By recognizing these distinctions, businesses can protect their brand identity and reputation in the digital landscape while leveraging their commercial opportunities.