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Protecting Website Name

I've thought of a cool, original phrase that I'd like to use to denote a website that won't be up for a couple of months.  Is there some way of legally protecting this phrase?  The website won't front any business at all initially, but perhaps, if all goes well, I'd like the option of evolving this thing into one if I can find a plausible model.

Dave
Monday, March 08, 2004

Just register the domain name and pay, what is it? $10 a year? As far as registrars go, it's a very competitive business; I have heard good things about godaddy.com.

You can't get a trademark per se until you actually have a real product being marketed under that name.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Monday, March 08, 2004

Can you register a trademark for a "vaporware" type product (say hello world) that does nothing and then switch the trademark to the real product when it is available?

S
Monday, March 08, 2004

There's state and federal trademarks. Federal is probably what you want. It needs to be used on the packaging of an actual physical product, it doesn't necessarily have to be the name of the product. It has to be sold interstate (otherwise the commerce clause doesn't allow the feds to regulate it). I think it's $500 to register - you can do it through www.uspto.gov. There's also a renewal fee that comes up. You have to send an actual specimen copy of the physical product or at least its packaging, showing the exact trademark. You have to decide what product categories you want to trademark and pay for each separately. if you don't pay separately for tee-shirts, then someone else can print your logo on tee-shirts and even trademark it themselves, preventing you from using your own trademark on teeshirts.

If there is no physical product but you provide a service, you can get a service mark - like for "Merry Maids" or "Bubblegum Consultants" or such.

Dennis Atkins
Monday, March 08, 2004

S, yes, you can get a tentative trademark and pay a fee to reserve it, then pay again when you get the real one. But you can't sit on a trademark forever without a product and getting the tentative thing (I forget the technical term) is discouraged.

Dennis Atkins
Monday, March 08, 2004

Dennis Atkins, coder by day, 8 legged ninja lawyer by night.

Li-fan Chen
Monday, March 08, 2004

Thanks!

Dave
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Dennis is right -- the formal name is an "Intent to Use" trademark application.  It basically gives you first dibs on the name... it's not actually a registered trademark until you actually use it in commerce.

http://www.t-tlaw.com/tm-16.htm

Keep in mind that registering a trademark is a lot more complex than registering a domain name.  It's more than just filling out paperwork -- there can be difficult legal issues about whether your trademark is too close to someone else'e trademark.  If the trademark is important to your business, it's best to retain a trademark attorney.

Robert Jacobson
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

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