Domain names and trade marks can sometimes seem similar, although they are entirely different things.
Difference between domain name and trade mark
Often a business will use its business name, brand name or another business identifier as its domain name. However, unlike trade marks, domain names are:
- unique by nature
- can't be shared between two websites
Registering a domain name doesn't automatically give you any rights over the matching trade mark. You can only gain this right by registering your domain name as a trade mark.
Trade mark vs domain name
Here's a quick look at the differences between domain names and trade marks.
|Domain name||Trade mark|
|What is it?||A domain name is a unique string of letters that is a part of an internet address. It is common for a domain name to be the same or similar to a trade mark or a business name.||A trade mark is any sign which can tell apart your goods and services from those of your competitors. See what is a trade mark.|
|What is it used for?||Domain names are used to locate and bring users to a specific website or place on the internet.||A trade mark is used to identify and distinguish your goods or services in the marketplace.|
|Do I need to register it?||Yes. You can submit a registration to any ICANN-accredited registrar.||No, but it in most cases it would be wise to do so. Read about the benefits of trade mark registration.|
|Why should I register it?||Registering a domain name gives you exclusive rights to use that domain for the duration of the licence period.||You can protect a registered trade mark by law. Read about protecting registered trade marks.|
|Does it expire?||Yes. You can agree the expiration term when buying the domain and renew indefinitely (subject to paying renewal fees on time).||Yes. UK registered trade marks last ten years, after which you can renew your trade mark registration.|
You will only be able to register a domain name if it hasn't already been used by someone else. Avoid registering a domain name that uses or is similar to a competitor's brand name or trade mark, as this can lead to disputes.
In most cases, trade marking a domain name can help protect your business' identity, reputation and profit. Find out if you can register a domain name as a trade mark.