E-commerce investors, web developers, and bloggers should be aware of the trademark laws that regulate their field of practice. By gaining knowledge of online trademark laws, an investor will be in a better position to make smart decisions regarding trademark registration, and avoid potential legal scuffles. These laws not only guide Internet investors from infringing on other people’s domains but also give guidance on what actions you should take if someone infringes upon your registered trademark. The registration, trafficking in, and use of another party’s domain name or trademark in bad-faith with the intent of making a profit is legally referred to as cyber-squatting. Online trademark owners attain protection and counsel from the Anti-cyber-squatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). Some of the significant principles of this act include:
Priority of Usage
Typically, the first online investor to use a certain trademark for commercial purposes acquires its exclusive rights. This essentially stops other bloggers, ecommerce traders, web, and app developers from using the trademark. However, this legal protection does not apply to the usage of previously registered trademarks or domain names. A confusingly similar or almost identical trademark to another will not obtain legal protection either. Similarly, online trademark rights are limited to certain geographic locations, strength of the trademark design, and voluntary desertion of the mark by the owner.
Goods and Services
One can only stop online trademark infringement if the violating party attempts to sell goods and services similar to the ones sold by the registered trademark owner. Cyber-squatting laws require actual proof of bad-faith in the use of third-party registered trademarks. This includes commercial usage of another person’s registered domain, online traffic diversion, very similar domain names and URLS, and attempts to sell the domain name to the actual owner.
Actual Use of the Trademark
To claim ownership of a trademark, one has to use it for commercial purposes on his or her website. Simply creating a slogan, logo, or other design does not entitle investors to the right of claim to a trademark. In a civil suit, a trade mark attorney must adduce proof of commercial usage of the mark for branding, promotional, and marketing purposes by his/her client.
Legal protection for a trademark is only enforceable if the design is unique and highly distinctive. In other words, the mark should pass the standards set by the Principal Register at the USPTO. The trademark should also have secondary meaning, which essentially denotes market presence and prominence achieved through considerable marketing and promotional activities.
Online investors face the challenge of trademark infringement and cyber-squatting from competitors and malicious hackers. However, a number of laws set out by the ACPA Act aim to protect online businesses from the wrongful usage of their trademarks by others. These laws are quite intricate and may require the expertise of a trademark attorney like the Trademark Access legal team to provide you with a clear understanding. Hopefully, the four points above provide a glimpse into the major principles of trademark laws in the United States.