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.