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Q.How do I obtain a domain name that doesnít infringe anotherís trademark?

A.It's simple to register a new domain name, a relatively cheap to buy a domain name. However, before you reserve or buy a domain name you need to make sure it won't buy you a trademark infringement lawsuit.

If you select the wrong domain name, you may receive a cease and desist letter telling you: (1) your domain name infringes on ABC's federally registered trademark, (2) you must immediately cease and desist (stop) using the domain name; (3) you must transfer the domain name to ABC, and (4) you must pay ABC damages equal to all the profits you made using the domain name for your online business. A cease and desist letter alleging trademark infringement is serious, and the trademark owner who had it prepared and sent probably intends to follow it with a trademark infringement lawsuit unless the trademark owner's demands are met.

Before filling out an application to register a domain name, you want to first perform a domain name search on the name. Search a popoular site like Google, Aol, Msn or Yahoo. If the domain name appears to be available, then perform a search at for any individuals or companies that may already be using the identical or similar domain name, or part of the intended domain name, within their domain name. Finally perform a search on the domain name at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. If it all checks out well, you should hire an attorney to repeat the above process.

Obtaining the assistance of an attorney is invaluable at this point because often the question of whether a potential domain name will infringe a common law or registered trademark actually turns on legal interpretation and knowledge of the trademark laws. It is possible for a potential domain name not to infringe an identical, or similar, registered trademark.

If you register a domain name, build a website and begin using the domain name, and only later find out that you have been infringing another's trademark, you could be sued for tens of thousands of dollars, forced to close your online business, and forced to transfer the domain name to the registered trademark owner. For relatively little time, effort, and money, you can have some piece of mind.

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