Could someone please explain the rule on registering domain names that infringe on trademarks? For instance, if someone registers the name theipod.com, then uses that site as a community site for ipod users, does Apple have the right to sue and take the name? Thanx........
It's quite a touch subject. Technically, if the company owns the tradmark, they could make you either give them the domain if it was causing issues. As an example though, said you had a site you wanted to call Tha iPod (yes, "tha"...like the rappers say ) and your domain name would be thaipod.com. Then that uses Apple's tradmarked name. But according to your domain name, you could argue.."no it's Thai Pod" At that point it's not an issue with the trademark anymore.
I have The Apple Blog and haven't had any beef with Apple and there are TONS of other sites out there that use things like "mac" and "ipod" and what not and really never have issues. As long as you don't claim to be associated with the company, I doubt you'll have any issues.
The biggest issue with domains and trademarks is when it can confuse the end-user. So for example, using theipod.com and then offering a community for users, apple might let you get away with it if you do not sell any products or accessories, and clearly state you are not affiliated with apple in any way, etc. But if you were to open theipod.com and sell MP3 related products or services, you can be pretty sure that won't last very long.
I have read a few cases where a company, let's say for example, called Widget Factory has their corporate website called thewidgetfactory.com, and the word widget is trademarked. But a company comes along and registers a domain such as cheapwidgets.com. This company sells products that are in no way even similar to what Widget Factory makes, so since there is no deliberate confusion of products or intent to mislead or gain sales by using the term "widget".
But trademark laws are not as black and white as others, and each instance is completely different. It also depends on how the company with the trademark wants to persue action. For example, theipod.com might technically be infringing, but if Apple sees this as a positive relationship to promote their product, they may opt to not worry about it, or vice versa.
As RockNRollPig explained, trademarks can at times be murky. What generally matters is the amount of possible confusion or infringement. If you register thaipod.com and run a site called Thai Pod about Thai food, Apple will have very little power over you. However, if you title the site Thai Pod but have links to ipod affiliate programs or discuss the apple ipod the confusion remains there. Furthermore, even if the site is not confusingly similar, if there is an element of competition (i.e. you sell your own mp3 player) they can go after you for direct infringement. Each case is different and each company handles them differently; it may be in your best interest to contact Apple and request permission to use a certain domain. Lay out the intent of your site, explain any possible ways which you will profit from the site and expect a cookie-cutter response which will most likely say no. Even if it takes you a few weeks and several letters/emails you will be much more certain that you won't get sued in 3 months then you would be just running the site.
Seeking agreement from Apple would be the way to go from here. If the site is a community site for ipod users they'll probably be willing to allow it, even if the owners make some profit from affiliate links (and if they obtain written approval then it counts in their favour even if the company later change their mind). On the other hand, if someone makes any profit* from the site without permission of the copyright holder then "fair use" laws are unlikely to apply, and the company has a strong case for taking the domain off you and/or forcing you to shut down if they choose to do so.
*even Adsense covering some of the hosting costs can be considered commercial gain