Nowadays, most businesses know that companies need to attentively monitor their brands. When a new business starts operating, more often than not, it has no offices or other brick-and-mortar assets. Its primary asset is its intellectual property, which includes a brand under which the goods or services are marketed and sold. This brand, and all of its components, is of paramount value because it critically contributes to the new company’s asset base and, as a result, to the company’s ability to raise capital.
As most modern companies conduct business through the internet, at some point they are likely to find themselves in a vulnerable position when exposed to the vast “black hole” that is the internet. Recent changes in domain names regulations resulted in a multitude of new domain extensions getting the “green light” to be used for commercial purposes. Naturally, this development exposed brand owners to the new challenge. With the increased number of domain extensions, potential for infringement upon earlier established brands grew exponentially. Domains almost identical to the established brand names – differing only in the extension – offer an ample opportunity for misuse or infringement of legitimate brands and expose branded goods and services to a potential likelihood of confusion among consumers.
Not only is misuse of domain names associated with existing brands likely to dilute the strength of those brands, it can potentially expose the owners to negative publicity associated with the content published on such other “similar looking” domains. There is an infinite amount of content placed online which is next to impossible to erase. Therefore, for companies with “young” and developing brands looking for investors and to strengthen their reputation, this creates an additional level of risk that needs to be controlled to prevent negative financial implications.
There are two steps that must be taken by all growing companies interested in securing their rights to brands: (i) registration of trademark(s) involving their brand names, and (ii) monitoring the use of domain names similar to theirs. The first step involves filing trademark registrations with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The second step requires signing up with a monitoring service that can update them on their brand’s registrations under different extensions.
At Gellis Law Group, our attorneys handle trademark and service mark due diligence, as well as searches and registration on a regular basis, a separate note is required for monitoring of domain names and extensions. Monitoring domain names and extensions can be just as important and should be undertaken, as far as is economical. For a large consumer goods company that owns thousands of brands and trademarks, such as Proctor & Gamble, domain monitoring processes can be quite complex and expensive. However, for smaller companies that own single brands, these services are completely affordable and rather simple. If your company wants to ascertain whether it needs such monitoring and protection services, please consult us at Gellis Law Group.
Just remember, if at some point either you or your company will decide to enforce IP rights and sue either a competitor or a violator for infringement, you will most likely be required to prove that you protected your brand. If the infringer can demonstrate that you have not taken appropriate and prudent steps to monitor and defend your brand, it may prevent you from succeeding against a real competitor.