11 April 2013 Quick tip for protecting your brand - domain names


With consumers relying more and more on the ability to research and buy products and services online, retailers are under considerable pressure to reconfigure their business plans in response.

Online shopping is now mainstream and businesses must maximise their online presence in order to compete effectively. Domain names are a critical part of this picture as a domain name can significantly broaden a brand’s visibility online.

Without a domain name, a business will struggle to effectively promote itself on the Internet. Registering a domain name, together with a trade mark and business name should be the first priority for a new business as it can differentiate a business from its competitors and protect that business’ brand online.

A domain name is a unique name that corresponds with an Internet Protocol address. The right to use a domain name is delegated by domain name registrars, which are accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organisation that coordinates these unique identifiers across the world.

Domain name registrars usually charge a fee for the service of delegating a domain name to a user and providing a default set of name servers.  While registrants of domain names are often referred to as owners, unlike the rights granted in respect of trade mark registration, registering a domain name does not give a person any proprietary rights in that domain name. For example, if you register a domain name, you do not automatically have the right to use that name as a trade mark. Rather a domain name registrant is only granted an exclusive right to use the domain name for the period for which that person is registered as the registrant.  We advise our clients that it is always preferable to register a trade mark in respect of the goods and services associated with their business, in addition to registering the domain name if the particular mark is eligible to be registered.

Most registrars offer to automatically renew your domain name. Auto-renewal is a convenient way that registrants can avoid exposing their domain name to registration by other competing business. We recommend that clients select this service because auto-renewal will also help to prevent the expiration of other services associated with that business’ domain name such as website hosting and email services. Service interruptions of this kind can cause significant harm to a business and consumer confidence in that business and brand.

If you are thinking of starting a business or you have any existing business that is about to go online and you would like to discuss how to best protect your brand online contact Swaab Attorneys.

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This article is not legal advice and the views and comments are of a general nature only. This article is not to be relied upon in substitution for detailed legal advice.

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