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Studies & Opinions

Protect Your Keywords from Abuse by Search Engines and Third-level Domains

Alex Tajirian

March 8, 2004

 

With the proliferation of unregulated Internet services, new sources of threat to your Intellectual Property (IP) have come about. They include using your IP in their domain names, in keyword search-engine advertising, and in third-level domain names (such as YourTrademark.blogger.com) through free blogs.

A trademark is a venue to protect your IP. Its purpose is to prevent others from diluting the value of your intangible assets.

With regard to domain-name registrations, courts have ruled in favor of owners of strong trademarks against cybersquatters. More recently, some of the major search engines have also sided with trademark owners, such as AOL, to stop accepting keyword advertisersí listings that violate trademarks. However, third-level domain-name trademark violations still go unnoticed.

To protect your intellectual property, you first have to trademark your keywords and phrases. To claim a trademark, you donít need to go through an expensive registration process with the USPTO (U. S. Patent and Trademark Office). You only need to place a TM, for trademark, or SM, for service mark, behind the keywords that you need protected. The second step is to make sure that no one else is using the trademark. To do that, you need to submit your entry to the TM-it database for a nominal fee of $20 for your first five listings.

TM-it helps common-law trademark owners protect their trademarks inexpensively. It also acts as a one-stop source of trademark information for USPTO, European, Canadian, and common-law trademarks. If, instead, you query a search engine for a specific TM, the result, unlike using TM-it, does not authenticate the first claimed user of the TM. Furthermore, Google, the most popular search engine, does not have all Web pages indexed, as a recent study by DomainMart revealed.