Is It legal To Have A Company's Name In A Domain Name?

36 replies
Hi!

Just wondering if a domain name like: sonyvegastutorials.com (not my site) would be legal (Sony Vegas is video editing software).

If Sony objected, is there anything that they could do to have the site shut down?

Even if not 100% legal, do businesses generally care or are they just happy that they're being promoted? Of course I'm assuming that the site doesn't, for example, claim to represent the company.

Thanks for your help!
#company #domain #legal
  • Profile picture of the author tpw
    Yep, they could send you a cease-and-desist letter from their favorite on-staff attorneys...

    It is called trademark infringement...

    I have experienced this before...

    Most online companies do not care... Most corporations do care, because you are eating into their intellectual properties value...

    I have seen Google ignore people who did such things... http://www.thechurchofgoogle.org/

    But I have also seen Twitter send cease-and-desist letters to everyone who put twitter in their domain name...
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    • Profile picture of the author TaskMaster
      TPW, thanks your feedback on that one.
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    • Profile picture of the author adrianwinston
      Originally Posted by tpw View Post

      Yep, they could send you a cease-and-desist letter from their favorite on-staff attorneys...

      It is called trademark infringement...

      I have experienced this before...

      Most online companies do not care... Most corporations do care, because you are eating into their intellectual properties value...

      I have seen Google ignore people who did such things... ยป The Church of Google

      But I have also seen Twitter send cease-and-desist letters to everyone who put twitter in their domain name...
      I agree, I had a site with both yahoo/google keywords which sold on DP. Thought I would be expecting a nice hefty email from both of them, nope.
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  • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
    Banned
    They can send a cease and desist, they can take the domain name from you or they can sue you without notice. Their call.
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    • Profile picture of the author Gary King
      Originally Posted by sbucciarel View Post

      They can send a cease and desist, they can take the domain name from you or they can sue you without notice. Their call.

      And it would especially sting if you had a successful site... imagine building that site up to generate substantial revenue just to get slapped with legal action.

      There are those willing to take that risk, and if you're one of them, that's cool, but you better plan for multiple streams of income.
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  • Profile picture of the author John Durham
    That sucks. It helps us sell to use the brandnames... I wish there were a way around that.
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    • Profile picture of the author theemperor
      Originally Posted by John Durham View Post

      That sucks. It helps us sell to use the brandnames... I wish there were a way around that.
      What about ...

      videoeditingreviews .com/sonyvegastutorials.html ??

      Can you get away with using their name in the files on your site, but not the domain itself I wonder?
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      • Profile picture of the author cyberws
        At one time I bought a domain with 'waterford' in it, to sell Waterford glass - in less than two hours I had a Cease & Desist from the company. So, you're gambling when you buy a corporate domain name, unless you are totally sure they won't care. Or you're willing to spend a ton of money in court.
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        • Profile picture of the author TaskMaster
          Crikey, Perry Marshall has this site: isfacebookforme.com/

          Let's see how long that stays up(!). Or is it like paypalsucks.com and will be safe?

          @The Emperor: In a page name is fine.
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      • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
        Banned
        Originally Posted by theemperor View Post

        What about ...

        videoeditingreviews .com/sonyvegastutorials.html ??

        Can you get away with using their name in the files on your site, but not the domain itself I wonder?
        The OP or someone said that Sony would let them use it in a subdomain, so I would think a filename would also be ok, but when trademark issues aren't clear, contacting a lawyer is the best route to go.

        I looked up use of trademarks on subdomains some time ago and found the info to be a lot fuzzier than info on trademarks in domains, so for a subdomain or filename, I would ask the company or a lawyer.
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  • Profile picture of the author Simon Johnson
    Hi Taskmaster,

    You can check the US Trademark database at Trademarks Home and see if your keywords are a trademark.

    With obvious things like well known brands, I'd recommend staying away from them.
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  • Profile picture of the author Caleb Spilchen
    It would always depend on the company, and the name. However in your case its SONY, so, I couldn't find any info on there site
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    • Profile picture of the author tpw
      Originally Posted by Caleb Spilchen View Post

      It would always depend on the company, and the name. However in your case its SONY, so, I couldn't find any info on there site
      Sony went after a mom-and-pop restaurant in California a few years ago... I would not mess with them...

      Many successfully tried to argue that the restaurant was outside the scope of the Sony Trademark, but that did not stop Sony from taking action...

      I tried to locate the original case, but could not... I do know it was 4-5 years ago...
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  • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
    Banned
    You can just use TESS for searches, but that doesn't tell all, but it'll give you a good idea if it is a US Trademark

    Trademark Search - TESS

    You can bet Sony is there. Since you want to profit from Sony's trade name, it does not fall under fair use.
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  • Profile picture of the author talfighel
    To be on the safe side, I would not use any company's name is the domain name. You can use it in the body of you site but I would check with the company if this is allowed.

    Like I said, it is better to be safe then sorry.

    So check it out with the company. In this case, SONY.
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    • Profile picture of the author TaskMaster
      Thanks for your replies all. The company I'm talking about is in TESS. I chatted with an operator and she said that having their name in a domain is not acceptable, but thankfully I asked about subdomains. The reply:

      "Yes, in a subdomain would be okay"

      Personally I don't like subdomains as they probably confuse people. What are your thoughts?
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      • Profile picture of the author Gary King
        Originally Posted by TaskMaster View Post

        Thanks for your replies all. The company I'm talking about is in TESS. I chatted with an operator and she said that having their name in a domain is not acceptable, but thankfully I asked about subdomains. The reply:

        "Yes, in a subdomain would be okay"

        Personally I don't like subdomains as they probably confuse people. What are your thoughts?
        I would seek documentation on this. If they won't let it be part of the main domain, why would they let it be part of a subdomain? I mean, they could, but wouldn't think they would.

        I wouldn't worry about it confusing people unless it's some really long thing. Most people click the SERP and go from there.

        If you are trying to make it so people type it in over and over, there's a possibility of confusion there, but a sig file link, backlink or SERP link shouldn't be a problem IMHO.
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    • Profile picture of the author Black Hat Cat
      Banned
      Originally Posted by talfighel View Post

      To be on the safe side, I would not use any company's name is the domain name. You can use it in the body of you site but I would check with the company if this is allowed.
      Yeah, I'm going to ask permission every time I mention a trademark on one of my sites.

      Not, lol.
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  • Profile picture of the author mattjay
    i tried buying a facebook domain for my business just to see if it would work. at first it said the name was available but then it told me the name was prohibited lol. i would guess at namecheap that the same thing would happen if i tried to buy a "sony" domain. i wouldn't risk it to be honest. even if the facebook domain was allowed to be bought i wouldn't have bought it. they have lots of lawyers and lots of cash
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    • Profile picture of the author kindsvater
      Originally Posted by Janice Sperry View Post

      Maybe Lawbook will sue Facebook.
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      • Profile picture of the author Jill Carpenter
        You can always ask permission to use a company name from the company.

        Smaller companies that you are helping to promote may have no issue with it.

        Just ask them.
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      • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
        Originally Posted by kindsvater View Post

        Maybe Lawbook will sue Facebook.
        I find it rather important to observe that Teachbook's functionality is very similar to Facebook's. While Lawbook is a book-trading network, Teachbook is a social networking site for teachers. It's not just that they have "book" in their name, it's that they're using "book" to indicate that their site is a lot like Facebook. I'd call that good reason to sue over trademark infringement.

        In fact...

        I'd call it...

        Wait for it...

        A textbook example.

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    • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
      Banned
      Originally Posted by Janice Sperry View Post

      And if teachbook weren't a social community type of site, Facebook couldn't touch them, but they are trademarked in the same category as Facebook.

      According to the filing posted on Wired.com, Facebook said the "book" part of its name is "highly distinctive in the context of online communities and networking websites."

      "If others could freely use 'generic plus BOOK' marks for online networking services targeted to that particular generic category of individuals, the suffix BOOK could become a generic term for 'online community/networking services' or 'social networking services,' " Facebook argued in the lawsuit. "That would dilute the distinctiveness of the Facebook Marks."
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  • Profile picture of the author bcmwp
    It's legal, in the sense that you can't go to prison for it.

    However, the company can choose to stop you. You could also be sued, if they could show that your use of their trademark damaged their company.
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  • Profile picture of the author KevL
    Yeah, as everyone else is pointing out - it's tricky, and probably not worth the hassle.

    Having said that, usually you'll find the company in question will send you a letter rather than issuing legal action - I would be quite surprised if companies took legal action without a warning shot, given the costs involved & the fact they have no idea if you have any assets to go after. Doesn't mean none of them will though, you never know.

    I've had a few websites that include the brand name in the domain, what I've generally done in the past is registered the domain & then waited a couple of months - and if no letters then I'll use the somain. There are some who are very much against it & some who're not bothered. eBay for example are one of the ones who're very passionate about protecting their brand, even think about creating a domain name with eBay in it & you'll get an email!!

    I understand that in some Jurisdictions, the company name doesn't have to be trademarked, and you can be accused of "passing off" just because the brand is known, even if there is no trademark filed.

    Ref the use of brand names in domains, I've just had a look & there are other re-sellers doing this, does seem odd though that they say no to using the brand name in a domain but not in a sub domain.

    Cheers

    Kev
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    • Profile picture of the author Exfilius
      Trademark is only infringed if there is a confusion between your site and the trademark owner's. If you put a disclaimer in the header along the lines of: This website is not associated in any way with "trademark", then you will be fine.

      Paypal tried to shut down paypalsucks.com, but they failed, because paypalsucks.com is not impersonating Paypal's trademark.
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      • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
        Banned
        Originally Posted by Exfilius View Post

        Trademark is only infringed if there is a confusion between your site and the trademark owner's. If you put a disclaimer in the header along the lines of: This website is not associated in any way with "trademark", then you will be fine.

        Paypal tried to shut down paypalsucks.com, but they failed, because paypalsucks.com is not impersonating Paypal's trademark.
        Nothing could be further from the truth. In the case of Paypal sucks, that is fair use. You are allowed to use the trademark for a review or critique of the product as long as it is non-commercial use. You can also use the trademark for a non-commercial fanpage.

        It's fairly obvious that the OP intends to use Sony to benefit from the Sony trademark and traffic and Sony could sue his pants off if they want to ... and at the least, take the domain from him in a UDRP.
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        • Profile picture of the author TaskMaster
          Originally Posted by sbucciarel View Post

          It's fairly obvious that the OP intends to use Sony to benefit from the Sony trademark and traffic and Sony could sue his pants off if they want to ... and at the least, take the domain from him in a UDRP.
          Actually it's not Sony. That as just an example. Anyway, interesting info, thx.
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  • Profile picture of the author Matthew Iannotti
    I have a 4dummies in one of my domain names ...haven't heard anything yet
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  • Profile picture of the author dannyadams
    Banned
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    • Profile picture of the author JD_Sanders
      I got a cease and desist from the attorney for Viking Corp. However, I explained that I was only trying to sell Viking products. She emailed me back and said she was out of it, and that I might be hearing from Viking's IT dept.

      Never heard another word.

      Don't know if that helps'

      JD
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    • Profile picture of the author DubDubDubDot
      Originally Posted by dannyadams View Post

      If you buy it BEFORE the trademark is filed, it's fair game.
      This is a common myth. At least as a broad generalization. To get more specific, you are probably safe if you buy it before the trademark is filed AND your first use in commerce date is prior to the TM.

      Many domains have been taken that pre-date the TM by many years since both of the above conditions were not met.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ofthemix
    EBay's legal department emailed me about a domain name I bought that had the word "ebay" in it, which sucked because the website was doing pretty well.

    I really think it depends on the company though. I have another website with a company's brand name in the URL and I haven't received anything from their legal department.

    I would definitely avoid using brand names in domain names though. It's a gamble. And needless to say, it really sucks when you've invested a ton of time and/or money into a site and then someone sends their legal department after you and you have no choice but to close the site.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mac Deyak
    You can get into legal hassles by the copyright holders.

    This goes beyond domains as well, for example you cannot open up a store with the brand name in the store name, unless of course if you are authorized by the company. e.g. you legally name your brick and mortar store, Nike or any derivative of that (Nike Surplus, Nike Runners etc.) even if you are selling only Nike products.

    That is one of the main driving reasons behind filing trademarks, so that other people cannot profit from your work without you having your hands in it.

    -Mac
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  • Profile picture of the author caseym
    I ran into this using the word "realtor" in a domain name.
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