One of the biggest issues I see new Domain Investors or even casual domain buyers encounter is Trademark infringement. Most people simply don’t know anything about Trademarks and domains so the thought doesn’t even cross their mind. I had a friend who recently told me he started investing in domains, he sent me a list of what he bought and every single one of them was a blatant TM violation. I told him to force drop them all and he did.
Some are not so lucky. I know another investor who bought an expired domain, parked it, then ended-up losing the name and getting slapped with an additional case against him for apparent “damages” done to the brand. He lost and with it lost tens of thousands of dollars.
The problem is some Trademarks are incredibly obvious, domains like BuyMicrosoftSoftware.com or BMWRocks.com violate very well-known Trademarks. However not all Trademarks are that obvious and when you’re buying expired domains it can be easy for one of two of these domains (or ticking time bombs in all reality) to make its way into your portfolio.
There is an example of this to me today in a domain I was looking at bidding that is selling on Go Daddy auctions. The domain is Cartronics.com and I actually really liked the name, but when I did a search on USPTO.gov I found a Trademark on Cartronic. Sure, the “s” makes a difference, and no it’s not a completely cut and dry and you might be able to defend it in a UDRP, but there’s a live Trademark and that means a risk.
It takes less than a minute to check a Trademark and when you’re buying an expired domain I highly recommend you do this anytime you’re not completely sure. I would have bid on this name and while whoever wins the name will probably never have any issues, there is a chance and with a live Trademark there is a risk. If you know about the risk and want to take it, that’s one thing, but if you buy a name thinking everything is fine and get slapped with a UDRP and a lawsuit, well then that’s just not any fun.
Take the time to search before you bid, it’s completely free and like I said takes less than a minute. You can check for Trademarks at USPTO.gov.
(Photo Credit – USPTO.gov, All Rights Reserved)