The recent case of the Indian Embassy in Bahrain site being misused as the embassy after changing the administrator had not secured the earlier domain name, and therefore it has become an unregistered free domain thereby leaving it free for any user to ridicule with the site and use it for its own devious reasons. This incident has definitely been an ‘eye opener’ for many that just starting a website is not enough even its protection is equally important.
The most common doubt, query or the best way to define it is ‘MISUNDERSTANDING’ among people relating to registration of website names or Domain names is that it is same as registering Trademark. The answer to this doubt is NO as Domain names and Trademark names are not same and have to be registered differently.
A Domain name is used for an IP address or internet protocol address, for e.g. 188.8.131.52 IP address can viewed by typing in the domain name allocated for it, i.e.,www.intepat.com. The name chosen should be unique and not similar to existing name. The main domain name is called the second level name and the end part is called top level domain. For instance, ‘intepat’ is second level name and ‘.com’ is the top level domain. Whereas, Trademark relates to brand name in the form name, logo, color, font, etc. used to identify specific goods and services.
One must file domain name application with a registrar accredited with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). A worldwide listing of companies currently accredited and operational can be found on the ICANN website.
The fee to register a domain name varies from registrar to registrar, as well as it is not necessary to have an active Web page to register or maintain a domain name. The period for protection can be decided by the applicant and registrar and can be renewed later on.
With the advent of internet, companies with similar names can be searched with ease which was difficult before. So two companies of similar names can come into contact which they couldn’t before, and use of a domain name which reflects a company name can be trade mark infringement even where the company name is not.
On the other hand, to get registration of a domain name as a Trademark the domain name cannot be generic and descriptive. A domain such as EXPEDIA.COM® is registered and protected as a trademark because the owner provides services through the website. Google, eBay, and Amazon are all domains turned famous trademarks because their owners not only registered the term as a domain, but chose a term that could also be distinctive for trademark purposes.
For a domain to qualify as a trademark the key requirement is that it offers goods and services for sale, and not merely provides an "informational" site. It should serve as a mark exclusive to the goods and services provided.
Investing huge amount of money in developing and promoting the website and thereafter not registering the website as Trademark can prove to be fatal. As in the case of amazonnetworks.com which dealt in computer services and had not registered its domain name as a Trademark was sued later by amazon.com a registered trademark domain name which sold only books initially.
It is now expedient for a Domain name applicant to not only get domain registration but also protect it as a Trademark later on for the goods and services provided by the website.