Copyright or Trademark?

Hey Guys,

I bought a domain name, but now I am not sure how to protect it. It is a unique name, but do I copyright the actual name, or trademark it?

Also, do you copyright an entire website, or do you trademark all content in the website?


Trademarks apply to business names, logos, brand names etc. You can register the relevant mark at your local trademark office - typically, you have to register the mark separately in all the appropriate regions (US, Europe etc), that way you can enforce it if you feel it’s being infringed in that region.

Copyright would apply to the content of the web site, you cannot trademark that content, but copyright exists the moment it’s created. I believe in the US you can register copyright, usually this is required to pursue damages in court. Not sure if you can register the entire content of a web site though, as it’s constantly changing.

will it cost me $$$ to copyright my own branding in website?

You can’t copyright ‘branding’, trademarks are used for brand protection. Yes, it costs $$$ to apply for a trademark, however there is no legal requirement to register your trademark - you could still theoretically litigate against someone who is somehow infringing on your brand, but having the trademark registered would definitely help.

Trademark Overview and Domain Name Issues

Trademarks protect a company’s reputation and good will and prevent consumers from being misled as to the origin or quality of a product. Recently, trademark law has become further embroiled with domain name issues.

A trademark includes any word, name, or symbol used in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one seller from goods sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name. (If a service provider wishes to brand their product it is called a Service Mark and enjoys the same protection as a Trademark.)

The law considers a trademark to be a form of intellectual property. Proprietary rights in relation to a trademark may be established through actual use in the marketplace, or through registration of the mark with the United States Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO). There is no requirement to register a trademark, but federal registration has several advantages including notice to the public of the registrant’s claim of ownership of the mark, a legal presumption of ownership nationwide, and the exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the goods.

Rights to a trademark can be acquired in one of two ways: (1) by being the first to use the mark in commerce; or (2) by being the first to register the mark with the USPTO.

You do not need a lawyer to file an application with the USPTO for a registered trademark. You may conduct a search free of charge on the USPTO website using the Trademark Electronic Search System at Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) . You may file your trademark application online using the Trademark Electronic Application System [url=]Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) to fill out an application form and then submit the application directly to the PTO over the internet with payment by credit card.

To protect a trademark through actual use requires the user to place a superscript TM after the Trademark TM. The owner of a registered trademark uses the symbol ® to indicate a Registered Trademark®.

The domain name system was invented to allow internet users a way of accessing specific computers on the Internet through easily remembered names. Domain names have become a valuable property in today’s Internet economy. Consequently, trademark owners have been quick to use the courts when they feel others have taken domain names they are exclusively entitled to use.

In addition to existing trademark legislation, in 1999, congress passed the The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) to protect trademark owners from acts of cyber piracy by those who have bad faith intent in using a domain name to profit from another’s trademark.

There is now over fifteen years of case law concerning ownership rights in domain names, much of which is extremely fact specific. It has not been easy for the court system to fit the cyber world into existing Trademark law. However, once a court found a domain name registrant was acting in bad faith they found a reason to prevent the continued use of the domain by the registrant even if they had to create new trademark law reasons.

Recently, ICANN has developed a dispute resolution procedure as an alternative to filing suit for trademark owners. Again, whether the registrant acted in bad faith will be a large factor in the ultimate resolution.

Not sure where you live however, do you recommend to take care of the grunt work for you, or is doing it your self not that difficult and would be a waste of money?

While they seem simple, it’s very easy to mess up a trademark such that the application is denied or simply not useful when you go to enforce it (for example selecting the wrong class for a mark). You can do them yourself… just do some research and look at related marks… but an attorney helps insure you do it right the first time.