by Steve Elias & Patricia Gima, 2000, 165 pages, $24.95 paper, ISBN 0-87357-569-6. Published by Nolo (1-800-992-6656 or www.nolo.com).
Some inventors and entrepreneurs may have become gun-shy about utilizing the Internet to promote their products after the collapse of more than 100 dot-coms and the disappearance of 40,000 dot-com jobs in 2000. However, the fact remains that the Internet has become a powerful business tool not only for "new economy" companies but also for "old economy" companies. This book provides the basis for making informed decisions for selecting, maintaining, and using domain names to promote your product or service.
The authors immediately make the point that "Choosing a name, or more than one, for your web site is no trivial matter -- your decisions can make or break your business". They offer as proof as to the value of a good domain name the fact that one such name, just the name itself, sold for $7.5 million!
The book details how and where to register your domain names. Network Solutions Inc. (NSI), is the current dominant register, but others are listed and their web addresses given. It is vital to be the "senior user", i.e., the first to actually use the name. This applies to any domain name and in particular to when your name is also a trademark. It is also vital that your name be distinctive and that it avoids confusing customers by its spelling or by the sound of the name. The authors quote George Eastman's famous advise about name selection -- "Be short, be vigorous, be easily spelled, and mean nothing". They note U.S. trademark laws specify six types of names that cannot be used. One such category consists of names that "contain immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter".
If you wish to sell or buy a domain name, the book provides a domain name transfer agreement form. A chart is given that lists the various factors to be considered if you discover someone is using your name or an excessively similar name.
You must be alert to "cybersquatting". That is others using your trademark as a domain name. In 1999, Congress passed a law against such bad-faith use of names.
In about l5 minutes, you can now search the U.S. Patent and Trademark database for registered or pending trademarks. The book gives directions and screen images of this site. A great deal of time, money, and grief may be avoided by making this simple trademark search. The book also lists other sites, such as www.thomasregister.com, for currently used commercial names.
Always remember that the "likelihood of confusion" is often the key ingredient in trademark hassles. Many court decisions have been made in this area, but it is still a gray area in some cases. The authors devote a full chapter as to how to register your domain name as a trademark in the U.S. Patent Office. Having a registered trademark is a powerful position to be in if a legal dispute arises.
Another chapter, "Help Beyond This Boo"," provides information as to where to go to do legal research regarding federal laws. It also provides advice for finding a lawyer who is competent with regard to trademarks and who is respectful, honest, and conscientious. Uncontrolled "billable hours" can ruin you financially. Read this section well.
The book's appendix contains a complete listing and explanation of the 42 classes into which trademarks are divided. Also, several pages detail how recorded computer software now is assigned to various classes.
In common with other Nolo publications, this book does a superb job of explaining, in plain English, the practical and legal aspects of the subject. This book will not make you into a domain name lawyer, it does not claim to, but reading it may save you a lot of grief down the road.