How to do a quick spot check to make sure a domain you’re buying doesn’t have Trademark issues

domain name trademarks

Here’s a common misconception that I’ve heard time and time again when it comes to buying domains – “if it’s listed for sale on a reputable marketplace, then it must be free and clear of any Trademark issues.”

The reality is, that’s just not true. Marketplaces don’t check for Trademark violations, that’s up to you as the buyer.

The good news is, in most cases it’s not rocket science and it only takes a minute or two to do a quick search. I’ll give you an example I came across recently.

As I’ve said many times before, I’m a big fan of Go Daddy Auctions, it’s where I buy most of my domains, have for years, still love em just as much as I ever have. Yesterday I was looking through some auctions when a domain caught my eye – econolight.com.

I’m a big fan of two-word .COMs and this felt like a domain I might want to buy. It was at $55 when I looked at it with about 19 hours to go.

This is the kind of domain I could see buying for maybe $200 and selling later for $2,000. Sure, it could be a five-figure name, and there are plenty of people out there who could hold out for the perfect buyer and maybe sell it for $15,000 or $20,000…but a name like this feels to me like a much quicker flip in the $2k range FWIW.

With a name like this thought, I always think – jeeze, that seems like such a good brand name…I wonder if anyone else thought the same thing and went and Trademarked it. To do a quick Trademark check you can simply go over to USPTO.gov and do their free Trademark search. To run the search from the top menu select “Trademarks” –> “Search Trademarks” – you’ll then see the following:

I usually go with “Basic Word Mark Search” but if you want to get really thorough you could try some other options as well. When I did the search for “econolight” here’s what I found:

What you want to look for here is that last row that says “Live/Dead Indicator” which in this case says LIVE. That means there is an active Trademark on this word and that’s enough for me to stay away from the domain.

Now, one thing that’s important to point out. You could do a Trademark search, have it come clean, and still lose a domain in a UDRP. This is not a failsafe way of checking a domain for potential Trademark issues, but, in a case like this, it can be very helpful in mitigating risk.

If you know there is a Trademark on a domain name, my advice is – steer clear. I hope this is helpful and of course I’m not a lawyer or expert in Trademarks in any way so if anyone has more advice on this topic please feel free to share it in the comment section below.

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Francois May 8, 2019, 10:20 pm

    To check worldwide trademarks:
    https://www.wipo.int/branddb/en/

    Reply
  • Richard Morris May 9, 2019, 1:00 am

    Morgan…you’re spot on with your explanation about Trademark research. While I’m still considered a newbie by some in this industry, I personally own several trademarks for brands that I own. These are trademarks that I actually registered® myself using LegalZoom®, and the process took about nine months and cost approximately $300. I own the trademark for JudgmentScore® seen here, http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4801:34rq5t.4.1

    The last thing I’ll say is that a so called trademark lawyer from Philadelphia, John Berryhill and his sidekick “Kate” from NamePros did their best to try to discredit me with regards to trademark issues involving a few domains I own. Fortunately I know enough about business and life in general that I’ve been able to discredit them☺

    Finally, I’m still with you about the two word domains, but like you, I really like econolight. Also like you, I would not have bought it “unless” the use I envisioned for it was totally different than the registered use.

    Reply
  • Jose May 9, 2019, 5:12 am

    Some time ago @Andrew Allemann of Domain Name Wires wrote a post about the subject of trademarks and domains.

    The write that Icann had a warning on each registrar domains that alert you what we search for new domain name (.com)

    There are companies, businesses … that before buying all extensions TLD, ccTLD afterwards with the entry of gTLD has changed drastically in many Trademark.

    I do the test in registrar Uniregistry.com where I have 338 domains today and look for: IBMtrademark.com and Icann do not give any alerts today retest in Uniregistry and this is the result: ibmtrademark.com – Available.

    The question that I ask myself with the current technologies that exist can not make the ICANN and USPTO organisms intelligent software that does not happen what to many of us has happened or can happen to others a UDRP.

    How quickly and surely we would have these organisms do something more positive that is the security of not falling into a UDRP we are not Detectives.

    Happy Day. Jose.

    Reply
  • steve brady May 9, 2019, 6:17 am

    Cambridge is a town, a school, apartment complex, investment advisor, property management company, law firm, last name, Analytica, computer accessories, stationery/office supplies brand and if you want to produce a line of meatless hot-dogs called Cambridge Franks, you can do it.

    Reply
  • John May 9, 2019, 8:03 am

    Morgan, you are starting to officially shift into the “suspicious” category. 🙂

    Reply
  • Ethan May 10, 2019, 8:31 pm

    Thanks for the tip. I’d like to add that, if you only want to search for “Live” trademarks, you can select the “Live” radio option (instead of the “Live and Dead” one) before submitting your search query.

    Reply

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