Trademarks are forms of intellectual property which are not only important offline; they are necessary online as well. As brands and companies seek to extend their reach and overall presence, almost all of them will choose to make use of the Internet in some way.
However, this increased presence resulting from exposure on the Internet can lead to vulnerability to trademark-related issues. Such issues include trademark infringement, trademark dilution, domain name disputes, brand abuse, and cybersquatting. For this reason, proper protection of trademarks on the Internet is vital for anyone who owns this important form of intellectual property.
Trademarks, Domain Names, and the Internet
Before going any further, the definition of a trademark must be laid out. A trademark is a form of intellectual property which is a name, word, symbol, or device which identifies any specific good or service while also distinguishing it from others. It indicates the origin as well as the quality of the product in question.
Business owners who intend to supply goods and services over the Internet ought to select a trademark in connection with the registration of a domain name. When they do so, they can ensure that they will be able to prevent any unauthorized person or entity from using such a trademark.
The acquisition of an identical domain name supports the function of a trademark. This is because a registered trademark which is identical to a domain name can provide an owner of this intellectual property with value during any domain name dispute.
Although, like a trademark, a domain name used on the Internet is a form of intellectual property, it must not be confused with a trademark. That said, it is possible for a domain name to acquire trademark status. This is because it is a form of intellectual property which can be used for identification of goods’ and services’ respective sources.
Trademark-Related Offenses on the Internet
There are several offenses related to trademarks which are commonly committed online. One such offense is cybersquatting. Cybersquatting is the illegal and abusive registration and use of trademarks as domain names. Offenders do so to either sell the domain name back to the holder of the related intellectual property rights or to attract Internet traffic to unrelated commercial offers.
Trademark infringement is another intellectual property offense commonly encountered on the Internet. It is closely linked to domain name disputes. This is because trademark infringement online often involves an entity’s attempt to illicitly obtain a domain name. Usually, this domain name is identical to an established trademark. Most online instances of trademark infringement involve the likelihood of confusion with any other trademark, regardless of whether the other trademark is used online, offline, or both.
Certain listings on online marketplaces may also violate intellectual property laws. When such listings depict the trademarks of any other brands without any authorization in the title, description, or images of the listing, intellectual property laws would have been violated. Such an infringement of intellectual property rights may either be known as “logo misuse” or “brand name misuse”.
How to Protect Trademarks on the Internet
Anyone who plans to conduct business activities online under a registered trademark must ensure that the trademark is suitably protected. One important way to guard this vital form of intellectual property is by frequently using the trademark in commercial activities. Failure to do so will make the trademark more vulnerable to infringements.
To protect the intellectual property rights that come with a trademark, the owner of a trademark must obtain domain names and social media tags not only for that trademark, but also for its derivatives. In addition, it is
important to use the “™” sign for trademarks which are being used but are not registered and the “®” sign for any registered trademarks.
Finally, to protect the intellectual property rights afforded to a person who owns a trademark online, the person in question ought to consistently monitor the public’s use of that trademark across the Internet. By registering for programs such as Google Alerts and remaining vigilant about the status and use of the trademark on social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, a trademark owner will be able to gain insight on whether any intellectual property rights are being violated.
This article brought to you by Exy Intellectual Property Malaysia and Singapore.