A website is the modern day storefront and requires just as much forethought and planning as its brick-and-mortar counterpart. After all, you wouldn't just drive around, point at a building and say "that one" before moving in. Creating a successful website requires you to really delve into the mind of your potential customers to best understand how to attract them. This challenge is inherent in the process of choosing and registering a domain name, which will be either the same as or complementary to the name of your business.
See the Internet and E-Commerce section of FindLaw's Small Business Center to learn more.
How to Choose Your Domain Name
Your domain name is your virtual address, contact information, and brand rolled into one, so it's important to get it right. Here are some tips to get you thinking about what domain name works best for your business:
Legal Protection for a Domain Name
There are two basic legal issues to consider when creating and registering a domain name:
Check to See if Your Domain Name is Taken
Once you've written down your top five choices for a domain name, it's time to see if the domain is available. There are several online domain name searching tools available, including several offered by domain registration companies. Also, make sure you check for any extremely similar domain names. Even if your domain name isn't an exact copy of a trademark-protected domain name, you may still be in legal trouble for trademark infringement if the domain names are sufficiently similar.
Registering Your Domain Name
Once you've got a domain name you like and is available, it's time to register it. There are a multitude of domain registration websites, including GoDaddy.com and Network Solutions. Compare and shop around to get the best deal, and read online user feedback to see how customers feel about a particular service provider. Also consider registering any websites that users might type in that could lead to your site, including misspellings (e.g., bobshoes.com, bobsshoe.com) or generic domains that aren't yet registered.
Apply to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
Finally, once you have registered your domain name, apply to the USPTO for trademark protection. You do not need to do this to create trademark rights based on your domain name, but doing so strengthens any future disputes that may arise. More importantly, it prevents someone else from registering your domain name or something similar as their trademark, which could eliminate a major headache down the road.
Get Legal Help When Registering a Domain Name
Starting and running a small business, including the process of choosing and registering a domain name, requires careful attention to details and a certain amount of know-how. But sometimes legal matters arise that require the expertise of a legal professional. Consider contacting a business and commercial law attorney if you have questions.