Need Trademark Protection for a Generic Domain Name? Help May be Just a Phone Call Away

Ann. K. Linnehan, Need Trademark Protection for a Generic Domain Name? Help May be Just a Phone Call Away, 38 Gonz. L. Rev. 503 (2003).

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With over twenty-seven million domain name registrations, it appears that the New Economy of the 1990s is here to stay. At the center of the shift away from manufacturing to high-tech industries are the Internet and e-commerce. Despite the recent slowdown in the economy, the legal environment continues to play “catch-up” with the changes wrought by the digital age. The growth of e-commerce challenges trademark law to keep pace, specifically with regard to domain names.

In order to compete in this New Economy, businesses must distinguish themselves with catchy and memorable domain names. Since the Internet’s inception, many businesses have discovered that domain names containing terms that precisely define the nature of their services or products are most likely to leave a lasting impression on consumers. Business owners look for names incorporating the generic term for their goods and services because a website’s commercial success depends largely on its ability to attract visitors. Another facet of this success is how easily a consumer can find the web site using a simple search of the Internet. After all, it is hard to imagine a better domain name for a boat manufacturer than “boats.com.” Similarly, a travel agent would likely attract new customers with the name “travel.com” or “travelagency.com.”

The demand for generic domain names and the investment made by companies in such names has spawned concern as to whether the basic structures of trademark jurisprudence are capable of protecting these domain names. Without such protection, large expenditures to acquire and promote these valuable assets may all be for naught…Read More

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