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URL & Domain Name Trademarks

A domain name is part of a Uniform Resource Locator (URL), which is the address of a site or document on the Internet. In general, a domain name is comprised of a second-level domain, a “dot,” and a top-level domain (TLD). The wording to the left of the “dot” is the second-level domain, and the wording to the right of the “dot” is the TLD.

Example : If the domain name is “XYZ . COM,” the term “XYZ” is a second-level domain and the term “COM” is a TLD.

A domain name is usually preceded in a URL by “http://www.” The “http://” refers to the protocol used to transfer information, and the “www” refers to World Wide Web, a graphical hypermedia interface for viewing and exchanging information. There are two types of TLDs: generic and country code.

Generic TLDs

Generic TLDs are designated for use by the public. Each generic TLD is intended for use by a certain type of organization. For example, the TLD “.com” is for use by commercial, for profit organizations. However, the administrator of the .com, .net, .org and .edu TLDs does not check the requests of parties seeking domain names to ensure that such parties are a type of organization that should be using those TLDs. On the other hand, .mil, .gov, and .int TLD applications are checked, and only the U.S. military, the U.S. government, or international organizations are allowed in the domain space. The following is a list of the current generic TLDs and the intended users:

.com         commercial, for profit organizations
.edu         4 year, degree granting colleges/universities
.gov         U.S. federal government agencies
.int            international organizations
.mil           U.S. military organizations, even if located outside the U.S.
.net           network infrastructure machines and organizations
.org           miscellaneous, usually non-profit organizations and individuals

Country Code TLDs

Country code TLDs are for use by each individual country. Each country determines who may use their code. For example, some countries require that users of their code be citizens or have some association with the country, while other countries do not. The following are examples of some of the country code TLDs currently in use:

.jp             for use by Japan
.tm            for use by Turkmenistan
.tv             for use by Tuvalu
.uk            for use by the United Kingdom

Proposed TLDs

Due to growing space limitations, several new TLDs have been proposed, including the following:

.arts         cultural and entertainment activities
.firm         businesses
.info         entities providing information services
.nom        individual or personal nomenclature
.rec         recreation or entertainment activities
.store       businesses offering goods to purchase
.web        entities emphasizing activities related to the web

While these proposed TLDs are not currently used on the Internet as TLDs, applicants may include them in their marks.

Applications for registration of marks composed of domain names

Since the implementation of the domain name system, the Patent and Trademark Office (Office) has received a growing number of applications for marks composed of domain names. While the majority of domain name applications are for computer services such as Internet content providers (organizations that provide web sites with information about a particular topic or field) and online ordering services, a substantial number are for marks used on other types of services or goods.

When a trademark, service mark, collective mark or certification mark is composed, in whole or in part, of a domain name, neither the beginning of the URL (http://www.) nor the TLD have any source indicating significance. Instead, those designations are merely devices that every Internet site provider must use as part of its address. Today, advertisements for all types of products and services routinely include a URL for the web site of the advertiser. Just as the average person with no special knowledge recognizes “800″ or “1-800″ followed by seven digits or letters as one of the prefixes used for every toll-free phone number, the average person familiar with the Internet recognizes the format for a domain name and understands that “http,” “www,” and a TLD are a part of every URL.

Applications for registration of marks consisting of domain names are subject to the same requirements as all other applications for federal trademark registration. This Examination Guide identifies and discusses some of the issues that commonly arise in the examination of domain name mark applications.

Last Modified: March 22nd, 2010