The Internet is a series of computers linked together and accessed by telephone for information (on web sites) or to transmit messages (by e-mail). Use of web sites and e-mail needs names or addresses, just as your business needs a name so that your customers can identify it.
Service Providers enable access to the Internet through computers which they specifically maintain for the job. Most service providers will allocate an e-mail address. This typically consists of a series of numbers, or of a name chosen by or allocated to your business linked by the @ sign to the Domain Name of your service provider. Your e-mail address might then look like this: yourname@service_provider.co.uk.
If you decide to set up your own web site so that customers can get information on your business, you will probably rent space on your service provider's computer. In that case you might be allocated an address which looks like: http://www.service_provider.co.uk/yourname.
A Domain Name is the unique name which identifies how or where on the Internet you or your web site can be found. In the examples shown, Service_provider.co.uk is your service provider's Domain Name. It will also serve as your service provider's trade mark being the name which distinguishes its services from those of all other service providers.
Trade marks distinguish the goods or services of one trader from those of all others. They symbolise the reputation enjoyed by your business. To maximise on that reputation it might be good business to use your own trade mark to register your own domain name. Before you do, you should consider whether your trade mark is itself already properly protected.
Trade marks should be registered for the goods or services for which they are used or proposed to be used. Although there is no legal obligation to register a trade mark it is best and much safer to do so. Registration of a trade mark will normally be granted to the first applicant and not necessarily the first user.
A domain name will be granted to the first person to register it.
In certain circumstances, it can be possible for holders of registered trade marks to recover domain names wrongly granted to people who had no valid claim to them. This can be expensive. It is an issue increasingly being looked into by those who regulate registration of domain names. Unfortunately it can also lead to unforeseen complications for those who have registered a domain name in good faith, without first registering the trade mark on which it has been based.
Domain names are allocated a suffix to indicate the commercial status of the holder of that name. This suffix is linked to a country code to show the country of origin. A company in the United Kingdom is allocated suffix co.uk, for company. united kingdom. Because the Internet started in the United States, US registered domain names do not use a country suffix, and a commercially held name is allocated the simple suffix ìcomî.
A test now employed by the US regulatory body is whether the holder owns a registered trade mark. It has recently been reported that the UK based holders of a US registered domain name who thought they had a valid claim to it have lost the domain name to another company which had previously registered the name as a trade mark. The matter is under appeal but it serves to show that time spent now in sorting out and establishing your rights in all countries in which you trade might well save considerable expense and trouble at a later date.