With recent questions regarding cyber-squatting and the protection of domain names, we’ve queried Google itself about the importance of trademarks when it comes to online marketing.
We were querying this with particular regard to Google Adwords, when it turned out that somebody could use your company name in their own advertisement.
According to Google, as long as trademark owners register their existing trademarks with Google, they will be reserved for the sole use of the trademark owners. If the term is not trademarked though, and more importantly, if Google doesn’t know that it’s trademarked, you run the risk of competitors using your own phrases against you.
If you register your company name, domain name, or even your tag line, as a legal trademark, and inform Google of the fact, Google will monitor any use of the term by anybody else, and prohibit it’s use in Adwords by anybody but the registered owner.
In the same way, registering your domain name as a trademark will give you legal recourse in the event that somebody tries to register a domain incorporating that name. This can give some much needed protection against the so-called cyber-squatters, unethical individuals who register domains using your company name.
This is usually done in the hope of selling the domain back to you, often for large sums of money, or worse, in the attempt to commit fraud using a domain name similar enough to yours that customers or clients believe that you are sending instructions or requests to them.
Trademarks have an advantage over both copyright and patent applications, in that they may remain in force indefinitely, as long as they’re renewed every 10 years. This means that registering a trade mark that incorporates your domain name can be an integral part of protecting your brand online.
Something to bear in mind though is that, according to South African law, trademarks must be registered for a specific class, or specific classes, or products or services, 45 of which are recognised by South African trademark law. (34 classes for goods, and 11 classes for services.)
It also requires that an applicant must be using, or intend to use, the trademark in relation to the goods (or services) covered by the application. This means that it’s necessary to consider precisely what the goods of interest are and to register only in the appropriate classes. This also means that a registered trademark must be used. If it is not used for a continuous period of five years, interested parties may apply for cancellation of the registration and may adopt the trademark themselves.
This means that if you’re planning on registering your trademark, you need to make sure that it’s registered in the correct product or services classes, and that you will be using it, or intend to use it, within 5 years as well.