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FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY? Beware of domain name registration services that link you to Trademark Office Database.

Since the end of Network Solution's exclusive rights regarding registration of domain names, numerous companies have popped up on the Internet that offer services that compete with Network Solutions. Many of these companies are offering services that accompany their domain name availability searches. Some are offering a link into the Trademark Office Database so that you can "assure" that your domain name does not conflict with the trademark of another party.

Certainly these promotions are on the right track. Clearly a domain name, even if available, can infringe upon the trademarks of another party. Securing a domain name does not necessarily give you the right to use it without infringing upon someone else's rights. But there is a major flaw in these promotions. To understand this flaw, it is necessary to understand a little something about trademark law.

Federal (and state) trademark and service mark laws provide protection over the use of a trademark or service mark. These laws permit the owner of a trademark to bring a legal action to stop another party from using the name. Generally, state rights to a name apply upon use of the name in connection with a business. Federal rights arise upon use in interstate commerce (basically across state borders).

The way that trademark rights arise is generally at the heart of the flaw in the promotion being used by some domain name registrants. Searching the Trademark Office database of registered trademarks is simply not good enough to let you know whether a domain name may infringe upon the rights of another party.

Notice above that I did not say that trademark rights arise upon filing of a registration. Trademark rights arise upon "use" of the name. Registration of the name secures certain remedies and availability to federal courts. But registration is not a pre-requisite to having a valid right to a name. Because it is "use" of a name that determines whether someone has a trademark, a simple search of registered trademarks is of very limited assistance in determining whether a domain name can be used without infringing upon the rights of another party.

I would argue that there are multiples more trademark owners out there than a registration search would disclose. The only way to have any assurance at all that the domain name that you are securing does not interfere with the rights of another party is to perform a comprehensive search of registration records AND common law sources. A completes search would include numerous business directories, state records and other sources.

Additionally, you should be aware that the Trademark Office database is not completely up to date. There is a lag time between the filing of a registration and the appearance of the registration in the database. A good comprehensive common law search will greatly close the gap of this time lag by covering more recently filed applications.

Searching the Trademark Offices registration database simply is not good enough. That limited search merely gives you a FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY. To order a comprehensive Common Law Trademakr Search and to find out more on Trademark Searches, Trademark Registration, and Internet Legal Issues, visit our Web Site at

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