Trademark laws are equally as important online as they are offline. Intellectual property authorities can and will enforce trademark laws to prevent any acts of infringement against website owners, online entrepreneurs, and sometimes even bloggers and social media commenters. Website owners in particular should be aware of their intellectual property rights. By understanding how trademark laws are applied to websites, they will be better armed to guard themselves against potential infringers.
It should be noted that most elements of any website will be protected by a copyright. These elements include graphics, text, data, website layout, music, and images. However, there are also specific website elements which trademarks protect including its logo, branding, appearance, and domain name.
The appearance of a website can sometimes be trademarked if certain requirements are fulfilled. For example, the intellectual property laws of Malaysia require anything which is to be trademarked to be able to distinguish one’s goods or services from those of another.
There are various elements within a website layout which can be trademarked. Although not every such registration attempt proves to be successful, the likelihood of approval of trademark registration for website layout elements is expected to increase.
Trademark Laws and Domain Names
In most countries, there are trademark laws which have specific provisions for domain names. One key reason why such is the case is because domain names tend to have close ties to a particular product, service, or brand. Many business owners also choose to use their trademark as a domain name. Doing so often makes it easier for potential customers to locate them on the Internet.
According to most trademark laws, a domain name will be accepted as a trademark by authorities if it is used in conjunction with any website which provides public services. Many such websites conduct e-commerce activities or other Internet-related services. However, domain names which use common or descriptive terms cannot usually receive this form of intellectual property protection. This is because such terms are generic; thus, they do not establish the unique qualities of a website.
Trademark Infringement Disputes and Domain Names
Many disputes regarding trademark infringement and websites are related to domain names. Businesses all over the world use domain names to establish an online presence. However, there may be incidents when a business finds that its domain name has been taken first. Some businesses may choose to continue fighting for the use of that domain name because they might believe that the external party using it is in violation of trademark laws. If the business chooses to push for the use of that domain name, a trademark infringement dispute may take place.
The trademark process which governs all domain name disputes is the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP). According to this policy, trademark-related domain name disputes must be resolved according to prevailing trademark laws. Agreements, court action, and arbitration are some of the possible resolution methods permitted under the majority of the world’s trademark laws. Should none of these methods be completed, a registrar may choose to cancel, transfer, or suspend the domain name to end the dispute.
Trademark Laws and the Display of a Trademark Symbol Online
Unlike what some might assume, there is no trademark law which requires any trademarked content online to include a trademark symbol. According to trademark laws, the symbol for an unregistered trademark is “™”. It is used for a trademark which has been filed but not registered. The symbol for one which has completed the process of trademark registration is “Ⓡ”.
Although trademark laws do not necessitate the display of a trademark symbol on a website, doing so is highly advisable. It facilitates proper intellectual property protection. This symbol should be prominently displayed on the website at least once. The footer of the web page should also mention the trademark. It ought to specify that unauthorized use of that trademark is not allowed under existing trademark laws.
This article is brought to you by Exy Intellectual Property Malaysia and Singapore.