Is it ever okay to use brand names in domains?

by jaxxa
52 replies
I know this has been asked about a lot on here, I apologize. However, I'm just confused slightly. I have an Amazon affiliate website with "xbox" in the domain name, and I don't know whether I should take it down.

Most people say stay stay away from brand names, but if I look on Google and even Flippa there are loads of IM sites which use "xbox" in their URL just like I do. Are they taking a risk? Well even if they are, I don't want to risk getting into legal trouble myself.. Any advice on this is appreciated!
#brand #domains #names #trademark
  • Profile picture of the author wanjugu
    Originally Posted by jaxxa View Post

    I know this has been asked about a lot on here, I apologize. However, I'm just confused slightly. I have an Amazon affiliate website with "xbox" in the domain name, and I don't know whether I should take it down.

    Most people say stay stay away from brand names, but if I look on Google and even Flippa there are loads of IM sites which use "xbox" in their URL just like I do. Are they taking a risk? Well even if they are, I don't want to risk getting into legal trouble myself.. Any advice on this is appreciated!
    Its very ok to use brand names as domains.Look here, if you use a brand name for a domain and it gives you your target revenue,why not?
    We are IM,we have set objectives,go for it.
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    • Profile picture of the author Istvan Horvath
      Originally Posted by wanjugu View Post

      Its very ok to use brand names as domains.Look here, if you use a brand name for a domain and it gives you your target revenue,why not?
      We are IM,we have set objectives,go for it.
      That's only YOUR idea of IM... as stealing and cheating.
      We will be watching you
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    • Profile picture of the author Richard Van
      Originally Posted by wanjugu View Post

      Its very ok to use brand names as domains.Look here, if you use a brand name for a domain and it gives you your target revenue,why not?
      We are IM,we have set objectives,go for it.

      Well up there with the worst advice I've seen given out on this forum, by a long way.

      Brand names are nearly always trademarked, why, wanjugu do you think things are trademarked? For fun? For a laugh?

      Good grief, I can't believe I've just read such utter crap in my life.

      OP, please don't take the advice of this person who has no idea about the law whatsoever. Speak to a lawyer but if you really want to know, just find out for yourself why brand names are nearly always trademarked, what a trademark is and the reason companies have them.
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    • Profile picture of the author Bill Farnham
      Originally Posted by wanjugu View Post

      Its very ok to use brand names as domains.Look here, if you use a brand name for a domain and it gives you your target revenue,why not?
      We are IM,we have set objectives,go for it.
      Epic fail.

      A classic example of why asking legal advice from a bunch of mooks on a forum is a bad idea.

      If you want legal advice go to a qualified source. Telling a judge "The consensus on XYZ forum said it was OK" will not cut it.

      ~Bill
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    • Profile picture of the author DireStraits
      Originally Posted by wanjugu View Post

      Its very ok to use brand names as domains.Look here, if you use a brand name for a domain and it gives you your target revenue,why not?
      We are IM,we have set objectives,go for it.
      Seriously ... what have you been smoking?

      There are legitimate uses of brand-names/trademarks in domain names (PayPalSucks.com and similar sites are examples), but you're treading some really stony ground if you're doing it with a commercial motivation.
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      • Profile picture of the author LarryC
        Originally Posted by DireStraits View Post

        Seriously ... what have you been smoking?

        There are legitimate uses of brand-names/trademarks in domain names (PayPalSucks.com and similar sites are examples), but you're treading some really stony ground if you're doing it with a commercial motivation.
        While I might sympathize with the motivation for creating a site like paypalsucks.com, I wouldn't register a domain like that unless I had a team of lawyers on my staff
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        • Profile picture of the author Richard Van
          I really find it incredible that people build up assets that are based on Trademarks then back it up with "oooh it's ok, all they can do is take it off me".

          So what's the point in doing it in the first place then? Incidentally that's not the worst that can happen either, not by a long way.
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  • Profile picture of the author LarryC
    It's always a risk to do this. Most likely, the worst that would happen is that the company will demand you take the site down -or transfer the domain to them. But they have the right to sue you. It's one of those situations where the more successful you are, the bigger the risk is. So either you're too small to care about (though they still may find out!) or you could get in trouble -so why take the risk?
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    • Profile picture of the author PatriciaJ
      If you don't want to risk getting into trouble then don't.

      Big companies protect their brands. You might see lots of others using brand names but if the big companies believe that they are losing traffic and direct sales to people using their brand in their domains they will go after them. Or they might just need to be seen to be protecting their brand. They could sue for prospective lost earnings besides demanding that you hand over the domain.

      However, you can always use yourdomain.com/xbox without the risk.
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  • Profile picture of the author retsek
    Yes they are taking a risk, but the truth is manufacturers and companies rarely go after people for stuff like this. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but not nearly as much you'd think.

    As a general rule:
    - I don't go after niches that deal with discounts or coupons or anything like that.
    - I ensure I never 'bad talk' or create a negative impression of the people's image or their products.
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  • Profile picture of the author rltenney
    Have to agree with LarryC. I've done this for a PS3 site I own. Proceed with the understanding that you need to be cautious when using a company name in your url. In addition to that, you must also understand that the company might be able to come back and grab that url from you simply because it contains their name. But the norm is not this case. Companies like Xbox understand that they make sales from people like us out here promoting their products, so they tend to be lenient. One BIG, HUGE NO NO is to use an individual's name. As an example, say I made it big-time as an IM and everyone knows me as a guru. It would be really bad for someone else to use my name in their url. So I would definitely avoid that at all costs. But using xbox in a creative way may not hurt. Good luck with it.
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  • Profile picture of the author jaxxa
    Yeah, I read that post and rolled my eyes slightly. Sadly, I think I'm going to take the site down, which I'm disappointed about because the keyword in the domain gets almost 10k exact searches a month. o wel.
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  • Profile picture of the author rltenney
    Richard Van, you have gotten to the point and are spot on!!!

    Like my PS3 site. I went into it marketing ONLY ps3 products as a review site. I checked things out prior to launching it and found that there is always a chance that Sony would be able to shut it down. But not likely. However, using a brand name is always risky. Check into it before doing anything. Great advice and comment Richard!
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    • Profile picture of the author Richard Van
      Originally Posted by rltenney View Post

      Richard Van, you have gotten to the point and are spot on!!!

      Like my PS3 site. I went into it marketing ONLY ps3 products as a review site. I checked things out prior to launching it and found that there is always a chance that Sony would be able to shut it down. But not likely. However, using a brand name is always risky. Check into it before doing anything. Great advice and comment Richard!
      Thank you, I just went back and toned it down a bit, it really annoys me when I see people blantantly give out awful advice.

      Apologies wanjugu if I sounded harsh but that advice was bad and shouldn't be listened to - End of.
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      • Profile picture of the author Istvan Horvath
        Originally Posted by Richard Van View Post

        Thank you, I just went back and toned it down a bit, it really annoys me when I see people blantantly give out awful advice.

        Apologies wanjugu if I sounded harsh but that advice was bad and shouldn't be listened to - End of.
        I know you are a nice guy, Richard... and I am not.

        That must be the reason I never feel compelled to go back and apologize to idiots.

        If a wrong advice can potentially harm others' business - then there is no room for politeness and/or PC (politically correct). You cannot be harsh enough with people like that.

        But again, I am not known for being nice and polite... with people who don't deserve it.
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        • Profile picture of the author Richard Van
          Originally Posted by Istvan Horvath View Post

          I know you are a nice guy, Richard... and I am not.

          That must be the reason I never feel compelled to go back and apologize to idiots.

          If a wrong advice can potentially harm others' business - then there is no room for politeness and/or PC (politically correct). You cannot be harsh enough with people like that.

          But again, I am not known for being nice and polite... with people who don't deserve it.
          Istvan, I think you're a great bloke and I love your no nonsense way of speaking, we'll drink plenty of beer together at the next Warrior meet up my friend. I will be there and I would love to meet you.

          I don't think I owed him an apology though, I just thought I'd come across a bit too rude. You are totally right right though, he didn't deserve the apology and the advice was definately idiotic.

          Maybe I'll go back and amend that now...

          If it helps, I don't do PC. I hate PC. A lot.
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          • Profile picture of the author DireStraits
            Originally Posted by Richard Van View Post

            If it helps, I don't do PC. I hate PC. A lot.
            Yeah ... never been a big lover of Pichtogalo Chanion, myself, either. :p
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  • Profile picture of the author Burton Lancaster
    Review sites tend to be hassled less, but no site that uses a Trademarked name in the URL is safe from potential legal action.

    Most of the time you will get a diplomatic email OR a C&D asking you to remove all the content from the site, and let the domain expire.
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  • Profile picture of the author options
    you are taking a risk, depends on how big the brand are i guess
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  • Profile picture of the author bilko99
    Read this story at ft.com on interflora
    just google "Interflora set to win ruling over trademark use"
    can not post links yet
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  • Profile picture of the author onSubie
    Hi

    It is always illegal.

    But

    The trademark owner may not always come after you.

    Aggressive companies will send you an immediate CND. Others may take a while to find you or only act on a direct complaint. Others will not bother you at all.

    For example, eBay/PayPal will get notified as soon as you register a domain and will send a CND shortly after you register, whether or not you develop the site.

    It depends on your own moral compass and your own tolerance for risk when choosing to illegally use a trademarked name in a domain.

    Mahlon
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    • Profile picture of the author davezan
      Originally Posted by onSubie View Post

      It is always illegal.
      Hold on there, Mahlon.

      Registering a domain name bearing a trademark isn't necessarily illegal per se. It
      is how it's intended to be used that can raise flags.

      For example, I register Delta Services dot tld to sell web site hosting. My service
      will not be confused with the airlines or the faucets maker because it's a totally
      different and unrelated service to theirs.

      OTOH, if I register Delta Services dot tld to offer charter flights, then I'll surely
      get into trouble with Delta Airlines. That's because the word Delta is well known
      (especially in the U.S.) for flights among consumers.

      If anything, brand names (especially unique ones at that) make it difficult to be
      able to commercially use without permission from its brand owner.
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  • Profile picture of the author FriendlyRob
    Without having read all of the other posts, I can say that if you don't get noticed it would be okay. However, if you are trying to use that domain as a landing page for any legitimate affiliate program it will likely not be permitted.
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  • Profile picture of the author mrclean78
    You should always speak with a lawyer about such matters. As far as I know in business, you CAN use a common name, as long as it isn't in the same industry, but I may be wrong.
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  • Profile picture of the author Johnny Nguyen
    It's NOT okay with brand names. Go for the product names!
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  • Profile picture of the author wgempire
    Infringing on someone's copyright is never ok, they could or could not come after you, either way not worth the risk, would be my luck they would.

    Why dont you just ask the company, send them an email, or call, tell them your domain and your intentions with it. They will simply say yes or no.
    If they say no then you need to take their name out of domain and move on without it in domain.
    If they say yes, save it, print it, and market the heck out the site.

    Either way your butt is covered.
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  • Profile picture of the author Domainate
    It is ALWAYS a risk to use a domain with an existing brand in it, WHETHER OR NOT the brand is a registered trademark or simply in use. Some UDRP decisions recently have gone in favor of the complainant even with just a common law trademark, without an actual registered trademark. Granted that is only 1 of the 3 requirements for a UDRP, but a UDRP is honestly the least of your worries. Trademark lawsuits involving domains can be for as much as $100,000 per domain.

    Just don't do it.
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    • Profile picture of the author Jill Carpenter
      Originally Posted by onSubie View Post

      Hi

      It is always illegal.
      Yes, and I am a 19 year old super model.

      I have used the brand name a couple of times in domains.

      What you want to do is contact the company first for permission. Newer or lesser known companies may be very open to the idea - at least that has been my experience.

      But here is the potential issue you need to keep in mind. One recent experience I had decided to close out their affiliate program. Luckily I was only using domains with the brand name as redirects with affiliate codes. But those with sites were told to basically forward those to the company. For my actual site I used a more generic keyword - so I am able to continue to promote within that niche.

      So - while you can use these names with the right permissions you are still somewhat at the mercy of the company who owns them. Something to consider when deciding how long you plan to promote a specific product.
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  • Profile picture of the author LittleHelp
    I can't post the link on here but if you check out Shawn Collins' blog there is an article/video post he has that explains why this is a no no. Go to his site and search for the post, it's called "Should Cheating Affiliates Worry About Getting Caught?" and it's dated from July 8, 2011.

    I can probably DM the link to you if you want.
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    • Profile picture of the author Itachi
      I know this is forbidden but what's interesting is that when you check xbox360 website and want to buy an xbox360 they redirect you to third party sellers, which makes you think they don't care about direct sales.

      However they might prefer selling from one of those trusted third party sellers than from someone with a cheap website(I say this as an exemple) but I think what could be the right thing to do would be to contact xbox themselves.

      A lawyer cost money and xbox could tell you what they think of this for free.

      I would suggest you take your website down until you do that though so you're "not already using their trademark without asking" .

      If you do that it could be interesting to see what they have to say about it but a big nono might well be the answer.
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      • Profile picture of the author Itachi
        Ty PeterJamesMorris, feel free to click away the thanks button

        I have sent a support form to Amazon affiliates with a few questions regarding this, I was curious and that way I'll be sure I have the right to use amazon name in my domain name, for exemple if I wanna release a amazon course in the future..or things like that

        I'll post here anything relevant they send me.
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  • Profile picture of the author TheSEOWizard
    That is perfectly fine if you have the word just in the domain name. If anybody is saying anything else then they are BSing. It should not imitate their website or steal their traffic by making your website visitors feel as if you are the official website. If anybody would sue anyone for just having the name in a whole domain name then half of the websites online would have been down. Wordpress would then need to sue maybe thousands of websites as wordpress theme sites, plugin sites, tutorial sites and what not use the name "wordpress" in their domains. If you are too worried keep a Disclaimer mentioning that you are not related to them. Anybody giving all these advices that you cannot purchase domains are just BSing and nothing else.
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    • Profile picture of the author Cali16
      Originally Posted by TheSEOWizard View Post

      That is perfectly fine if you have the word just in the domain name. If anybody is saying anything else then they are BSing.... If you are too worried keep a Disclaimer mentioning that you are not related to them.
      Clearly the concept of "trademark infringement" is completely lost on you. :rolleyes: You can also get in trouble for using "substantially similar" names in your domain.

      Here's a pretty good article on the topic: Domain Name Disputes & Domain Name Law

      Btw, I'm not an attorney, but I'm pretty sure that disclaimer you suggest won't do you any good if you get sued.
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    • Profile picture of the author davezan
      Originally Posted by TheSEOWizard View Post

      That is perfectly fine if you have the word just in the domain name. If anybody is saying anything else then they are BSing.
      Hmmm, then I guess those mediation panels and judges who ruled otherwise are
      BSing as well. You can look up that link Cali16 posted, or even this one also.

      Like you and some members perhaps, I also hate it when someone's BSing or is
      posting something BS, especially if certain facts contradict what one said.
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  • Profile picture of the author dorianjohn425
    I have had good readings here...Thank you for all those who gave helpful insights about
    using brand names in domains...Keep it up guys
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    • Profile picture of the author TheSEOWizard
      Originally Posted by Cali16 View Post

      Clearly the concept of "trademark infringement" is completely lost on you. :rolleyes: You can also get in trouble for using "substantially similar" names in your domain.

      Here's a pretty good article on the topic: Domain Name Disputes & Domain Name Law

      Btw, I'm not an attorney, but I'm pretty sure that disclaimer you suggest won't do you any good if you get sued.
      Originally Posted by davezan View Post

      Hmmm, then I guess those mediation panels and judges who ruled otherwise are
      BSing as well. You can look up that link Cali16 posted, or even this one also.

      Like you and some members perhaps, I also hate it when someone's BSing or is
      posting something BS, especially if certain facts contradict what one said.

      The links you are pointing are mainly to cybersquatting and that is what I never mentioned. Obviously cybersquatting is not only wrong but unethical too.

      But just by mentioning a word inside a domain name does not imply cybersquatting. As per wikipedia

      Cybersquatting (also known as domain squatting), according to the United States federal law known as the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, is registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else. The cybersquatter then offers to sell the domain to the person or company who owns a trademark contained within the name at an inflated price.
      If it is used in bad faithin order to harm their business then it is surely wrong but if the domain consists of just a part of the name then it is definitely not cybersquatting. Then Google, Microsoft and Apple would have needed to ban and sue half the websites in the world as there are maybe hundreds of thousands of websites where some part of these three giants or their products are included. To be frank, if such a situation arises, ICANN would rather make a law wherein any domain containing any product name would not even be allowed to register. If it is not harmful or malicious I do not see any any problem at all. To give an example, kimkardashian.com was received by her and given by ICANN when the owner of the domain used it to host porn etc. and tried to harm her reputation.
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      • Profile picture of the author davezan
        Originally Posted by TheSEOWizard View Post

        But just by mentioning a word inside a domain name does not imply cybersquatting. As per wikipedia

        If it is used in bad faithin order to harm their business then it is surely wrong but if the domain consists of just a part of the name then it is definitely not cybersquatting. Then Google, Microsoft and Apple would have needed to ban and sue half the websites in the world as there are maybe hundreds of thousands of websites where some part of these three giants or their products are included. To be frank, if such a situation arises, ICANN would rather make a law wherein any domain containing any product name would not even be allowed to register. If it is not harmful or malicious I do not see any any problem at all. To give an example, kimkardashian.com was received by her and given by ICANN when the owner of the domain used it to host porn etc. and tried to harm her reputation.
        Ah, then just be clear what exactly you're referring to as BS. I did explain that
        in part to Mahlon in post #25.

        If one registers domains bearing unique, famous marks like Xbox, though, what
        do you suppose they'll be for other than to try making money off of their mark
        namesake/s? While not everybody gets caught for speeding, do other drivers'
        behavior of going beyond the 60-kph speed limit tell you if something's allowed
        or not?

        Finally, UDRP and bad faith are not the only criteria for TM infringement. Look
        up the Lanham Act and what's called "likelihood of confusion".
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  • Profile picture of the author JustFelix
    Usually brand name are making me a lot of money! More then target keywords domain in the long run.
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    • Profile picture of the author celente
      Originally Posted by JustFelix View Post

      Usually brand name are making me a lot of money! More then target keywords domain in the long run.
      jinx, I was just about to post the whole TONY ROBBINS name.

      That dude could have called his business something else, but look how he indeed changed his name to the brand...and his websites.

      It is not easy to brand, but alas. you can still do very well if you go about it the right way.
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      • Profile picture of the author Cali16
        Originally Posted by TheSEOWizard View Post

        The links you are pointing are mainly to cybersquatting and that is what I never mentioned. Obviously cybersquatting is not only wrong but unethical too.
        You're still missing the point. The article to which I provided a link covered more than just cybersquatting. But, cybersquatting is not the only problem when it comes to trademark infringement. Also, no one (as I recall) said anything about using "just part of the name" in the domain.

        Perhaps this will help clarify the issue for you: (from Domain Names And Trademarks)

        "Domain Names As Infringing Marks

        Conversely, to the extent that you have obtained a unique domain name but have not obtained a federal registration for it with the USPTO, you may find yourself at the wrong end of an infringement claim. The holder of a mark in the real world may notify you that your domain infringes upon their use of their mark in that your mark has the potential of confusing the public as to the origin of your web site and creates an implication that the mark's holder is somehow involved in or with your site."


        (The USPTO is the United States Patent and Trademark Office.)

        By using a trademark (without permission) in your domain name, regardless of your intent, you can (and most likely will) give the public the impression that the trademark owners are affiliated with your site, even though they are not. That's a big part of the problem.

        For example, if I decided to open up a store (online or offline) named "Nike Apparel Shop", I'm guessing Phil Knight and co. would not be too keen on it if they found out about it. Even if I was selling Nike brand items in the store, the public will likely assume I am directly affiliated with Nike because of the trademark name (in my domain name and / or store name) even though I have no relationship with Nike. (Are you seeing the potential problem here yet...?)

        I'm going to get customers (and profit from them) because of the Nike name. Is that fair to Nike?? Also, if I end up doing something stupid or unethical (even if just out of ignorance and not with any ill intent) it could tarnish the Nike name. (This may not be an ideal analogy but using it merely as an illustration). Now, if I had obtained permission from Nike, that's an entirely different story. But I didn't get permission, and once they found out about my store they would most likely take legal action for trademark infringement (among other things). And rightly so.

        Oh, btw, the domain NikeApparelShop.com is available at GoDaddy.com for $11.99. Feel free to purchase it and set up a site and see how that works for you... I mean, since you are so sure it wouldn't be a problem....

        Anyway, as I said, I'm not an attorney; this is just my opinion and my understanding of trademark infringement and why it's best to not buy or use domain names with brand or trademark names in them, and why I think your initial post is way off base. But, if you choose to do so anyway, I'd certainly recommend consulting with an attorney first.
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  • Profile picture of the author Targeted Traffic
    You've heard it buddy, while you may already have a good idea on what's right...for issues such as these, it would be best to contact an Internet Lawyer.

    Companies doing business online today and for those planning to build a long term business, need to understand that there are complex laws surrounding eCommerce and Internet businesses. An experienced Internet attorney will be able to counsel you on the specific legal issues that relate to your business and can advocate on your behalf in the event of legal proceedings against you.
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  • Profile picture of the author Peachy23
    No, Most of its trademark.
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  • Profile picture of the author Reed7
    Brand names are protected by law- period. Some cases companies will state right in the legal portion of the main site"do not use our registered name" in your domain.
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  • Profile picture of the author predayshus
    Talk about beating a dead horse. It's never fun to receive a C&D letter... never... ever. That fact is if they (owners) are feeling frisky, they could easily bring you to court over the matter. It won't bother them in the slightest. That $10 a month auto blog can turn into a -$3000 lawyer fee within moments, then we need to talk about "damages".

    Just one more point... I've gotten C&Ds over subdomains, so unless you have expressed written permission, it just won't be worth your time or effort. These companies don't play when it comes to trademarks.
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  • Profile picture of the author sadiecopywriter
    I bought a domain name with eBay in it once. Before I could even put up one word of content, I got a lawyer letter. I contacted my registrar and got the name voided as soon as possible.

    Companies like that have deep pockets, and unless you do too, I suggest not taking them on.
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    • Profile picture of the author dave_hermansen
      The ONLY WAY I would consider having a brand name in your domain name is if you have written consent from the owner of the brand/trademark. Otherwise just avoid it completely.
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      StoreCoach.com - Learn How to Create Your Own Products & Brand - Buy & Sell Websites
      My PROVEN ecommerce process, as seen on: Fox Business News, the NY Times & Flippa
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  • Profile picture of the author gabwilliams
    Some companies will chase you, however some wont. Take for instance Paypalsucks.com. You'd have thought that Paypal would have had this closed down by now??
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    Looking for HIGH PAGERANK Domains
    with Page Authority and Backlinks?
    PRDROP.INFO

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  • Profile picture of the author Chri5123
    Whenever you use a trademark/brandname in your domain name you do so at your own risk. If the brand is trademarked and the owner of that trademark decides to give you hassle you normally get a C&D letter and have to transfer the domain to them or worse a fine!

    If in doubt don't do it!

    Chris
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