Think there are no cool domain names left? Think again. I found 201 cool domain names that are taken but six (count ’em, six) that are not. Some of them from a box of crayons. Plus strategies for protecting your trademarks, domain names, and company name.
Can you verb a noun? OK, “trademark” and “domain name” are not verbs, and although people generally refer to “trademarking,” it is, strictly speaking, more correct to speak of registering trademarks and registering domain names. Not to split hairs, but, then again, that’s what lawyers do for a living. And when I speak of “registering,” I am referring to registering federally, i.e. with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Here are some practical strategies you can take to protect some of your company’s most valuable intellectual property.
Like to read the last page of the book first? Skip ahead to the crayon domain names.
Step 1 – Choose a good company name.
It’s difficult to choose a good company name. It’s also easier to say what you should not do rather than what you should do.
A bad strategy is to choose a company name that is already taken. Many states, such as Massachusetts (http://corp.sec.state.ma.us/corp/CorpSearch/CorpSearchInput.asp), let you search their corporate name records via the web, but beware. Even states that have this functionality do not include assumed names in this database. Most towns require unincorporated businesses (such as sole proprietorships) to apply for a business certificates and register their company names with the town clerk. But this assumed name (also called “doing business as” or dba) data is generally not available at the state level or via the web. To find information about corporate names in your state, find your state’s web site (http://dir.yahoo.com/Regional/U_S__States/), then find the corporations division, which is usually a division of the Secretary of State’s office. Unless you’re looking in Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania or Virginia, in which case it would be the Secretary of the Commonwealth (http://bensguide.gpo.gov/support/faqs.html). But there I go splitting hairs again.
A better strategy is to choose a company name that is neither generic nor descriptive. Don’t name your bookstore “Bob’s Bookstore,” or “Affordable Books.” Instead, choose a name that is suggestive of the qualities your company stands for. If you are selling data backup services, perhaps include “elephant” in the name, since elephants (allegedly) have good memories. If you are starting a bus company, consider the fact that “greyhounds” are very fast dogs.
An even better strategy is to choose a distinctive company name that has nothing to do with what your company does. “Apple” is a good name for a computer company because computers have nothing inherently to do with apples. “Amazon” is a good name for a book store (or for a stuff store) because books have nothing inherently to do with the Amazon River. Names of the founders of companies also fall into this category. Think “Dell” computers or “Hewlett Packard” printers.
The best strategy is to choose a distinctive company name that is a brand new word. This is, of course, the most fun and the most challenging. Made-up words can sound cool or they can sound like names that didn’t make the final cut for the Seven Dwarfs. There are companies that specialize in helping companies choose names (http://dir.yahoo.com/…), but you may end up with a name you don’t like.
There are also web sites that may help you choose a distinctive company name. Web sites such as the Random Name Generator (http://www.kleimo.com/random/name.cfm) are designed to produce lists of pseudo words based on vowel/consonant rules. You may also want to try password generators (http://www.multicians.org/thvv/gpw.html), anagram generators (http://mmm.mbhs.edu/~bconnell/anagrams.html), and baby name generators (http://www.baby-name-generator.com/) to try to pick a name. But my favorite variety of these is the random band name generator (http://dir.yahoo.com/…).
Step 2 – Pick a good domain name registrar.
I would caution against registering a domain name with a registrar that has spawned “anti web sites.” By “anti web sites,” I mean web sites set up to proclaim what terrible service the company provides. In most cases, one has to take these sites with a grain of salt, but their mere existence should be a cause for concern. Network Solutions (NSI) (http://www.netsol.com/) was the original domain name registrar before the domain name registration business was opened up to competition. Network Solutions (which is owned by VeriSign) can be, however, quite difficult to do business with. I found that it was easier to switch registrars rather than try to correct the information in NSI’s database. The good news is that there are now many domain name registrars (http://www.internic.net/regist.html) from which to choose. There are also anti-NSI web sites (http://dir.yahoo.com/…) such as LosAngelesNews.com (http://www.losangelesnews.com/).
OpenSRS is a domain name wholesaler set up by Tucows (http://www.tucows.com/), and once you have registered a domain name with an OpenSRS reseller, you can quickly and easily switch to another OpenSRS reseller. Anyone who has wrestled with VerSign’s (i.e. Network Solutions) ridiculously complicated procedures for transferring a domain name from one party to another will appreciate just how wonderful OpenSRS is. I now used DomainDirect (http://www.domaindirect.com/), which is Tucows’ own OpenSRS registrar.
Step 3 – Register your company name as one or more domain names.
Domain names should be registered in the name of the company. And the company’s name, address, phone number, and e-mail address should be EXACTLY the same as in the state’s corporate database (or the town’s assumed name database). Note that these e-mail addresses will become public, so you should pick an e-mail address that is ONLY used for this purpose, and you should make sure that your company will ALWAYS have control over this e-mail address.
If you register multiple domain names, you should make sure that the information for each domain name is EXACTLY the same, down to the character. Some registrars, such as DomainDirect, make this easy by letting you auto-fill information from one domain name record into a record for a new domain name.
Do not register domain names with dashes in them. You are just asking for trouble. Choose a domain name without dashes. If you register a domain name with dashes, you would just have to register the equivalent domain name without dashes to avoid customer confusion. And if someone registers a version of your domain name with dashes after you registered it without dashes, then you have a good case that their domain name is confusingly similar to yours. In this case, you should consider filing a complaint under the Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy (UDRP) (http://www.icann.org/udrp/udrp.htm).
You should consider registering different versions of your domain name. I recommend that companies register their company name in the “big three” Top Level Domains (TLDs) (i.e. .com, .net, and .org). Registering multiple domain names is cheap insurance to protect against possible infringing use. For the same reason, register both the singular and plural versions of your domain name. Finally, you may want to prepend “www” to your domain names and register all of these too, since omitting the dot between the “www” and the domain name is a common error made by Internet users. This is why, for example, Amazon.com has also registered “wwwamazon.com.”
Step 4 – Register your (future) trademarks as domain names.
You should also register your product names, service names, and future trademarks as domain names. I include the “future” designation because marks don’t become trademarks until they are being used in commerce to identify the source of goods or services. This is a long way of saying that you should register your trademarks as domain names.
Step 5 – Set up a web site and start using your marks as trademarks.
It is often easier to register domain names than to actually start using marks as trademarks. That is why I put Step 4 before Step 5. In any event, once you have identified all of the marks that identify the source of goods or services your company is offering, publish those on your web site and put “TM” after each mark. Trademark rights attach when you first use a mark, and no registration is required to used the “TM” symbol. When it comes time to register your trademarks federally, you’ll need a sample (or “specimen”) of the mark being used as a trademark in interstate commerce. Since the Internet is inherently interstate, pages from your web site showing your marks in use can now be used as the specimens for your federal trademark applications.
Step 6 – Register your trademarks.
In order for trademarks to be registered by the USPTO, they must be 1) not descriptive, 2) not generic, and 3) distinctive. So if you have followed my suggestions for picking a good company name, then you’ve also chosen a good trademark. There are other considerations as well, but these are the main requirements.
I recall a “Non Sequitor” cartoon (http://www.non-sequitur.com/…) that showed a man from “Mammoth Moving Company” explaining to his customer that “they only move mammoths.” Because that company’s mark is descriptive of what the company does, it would not be able to federally register the mark!
Can you trademark a domain name? The short answer is that it depends if you are using your domain name as a trademark. Is your domain name being used to identify the source of the products or services you offer? If so, and if it passed the other three tests above, then you may be able to secure federal registration for it.
One reason you might want to register your domain name as a trademark is to prevent “cybersquatters” from using confusingly similar marks. For about two years, AmaXon.com had its own web site (http://web.archive.org/web/*/www.amaxon.com), but now “amaXon.com” is owned by Amazon.com. For more information on this topic, see “Trademark Registration of Internet Domain Names” by the USPTO (http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/tac/domain/).
201 Cool Domain Names and 6 Available Domain Names.
Domain names are as important as – if not more important than – trademarks. But it can be quite difficult to choose a good name and a corresponding domain name for your company. See my suggestions above for choosing a good company name. These same suggestions apply to choosing a good domain name.
Out of curiosity, I checked several categories of information and checked to see if each item in the category had been registered as a domain name. For example, when I grew up, my box of Crayola Crayons had 64 colors. More have been added, but I was only interested in these 64. What was your favorite color name? Mine was “burnt sienna.” Just sounds cool. Well, the domain name “burntsienna.com” is taken (by a band). The good news is that three of the 64 color names are AVAILABLE for registration. Act now, I don’t expect these names to last long!
I should note that some of these domain names are associated with adult-oriented web sites. I have noted those below. Caveat emptor. Or surfer emptor, as the case may be. All links will open in a new window, so if you want to browse the entire list, resize this article to be the size of your bookmarks toolbar and view the 201 web sites in a second larger browser window.
- Numbers 1-20
- Days of the Week
- Solar System – Planets, Moons, Etc.
- Crayola Crayons
- six – adult-oriented
- nine – out of business
- ten – adult-oriented
- sixteen – adult-oriented
- nineteen – adult-oriented
- February – equals www.mp3.tv
- April – adult-oriented
- July – equals www.mp3.tv
- Monday – This is a good example of why (most) lawyers should not be allowed to write web pages. This (undated) page says, “PLEASE NOTE THAT IBM recently completed its acquisition of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ global management consulting and information technology services business, PwC Consulting. As a result, PwC Consulting is no longer a part of the PricewaterhouseCoopers network of firms, and is now a part of the IBM Global Services business unit. Accordingly, if you wish to access the PwC Consulting website, please go to www.ibm.com/services. IBM (including IBM Global Services) and PricewaterhouseCoopers are not the same organization, and neither governs or is affiliated with the other, or any affiliate, subsidiary or division of the other.”
- Friday – improper trademark marking
The information in this section was derived from The Nine Planets (http://seds.lpl.arizona.edu/nineplanets/nineplanets/nineplanets.html). This is a listing of the nine planets, their named moons, and other objects (or lack thereof) in our solar system.
- Sun – a computer company you may have heard of
- Mercury – not a car company
- Earth – home of http://www.earth.com/calendar
- Saturn – a car company you may have heard of
- Small Bodies – UNREGISTERED
- The Interplanetary Medium – UNREGISTERED
The information in this section was derived from Crayola’s web site (http://www.crayola.com/colorcensus/history/chronology.cfm).
- Blue Gray
- Blue Green
- Blue Violet
- Brick Red
- Burnt Orange
- Burnt Sienna – band site
- Cadet Blue – UNREGISTERED
- Carnation Pink
- Forest Green
- Goldenrod – music site
- Green Blue
- Green Yellow – for sale
- Indian Red – for sale
- Changed to Chestnut
- Lavender – adult-oriented
- Lemon Yellow
- Midnight Blue
- Formerly Prussian Blue – rock band
- Navy Blue
- Olive Green
- Orange Red
- Orange Yellow – UNREGISTERED
- Formerly Flesh – adult-oriented
- Pine Green
- Raw Sienna
- Raw Umber
- Red Orange
- Red Violet – for sale
- Sea Green
- Sky Blue
- Spring Green
- Turquoise Blue
- Violet Blue
- Violet Red – UNREGISTERED
- White – adult-oriented
- Yellow Green
- Yellow Orange
- sixty-four – a Nintento64 site
- built-in sharpener – UNREGISTERED (and my personal favorite of the unregistered six)
Company names, trademarks, and domain names are valuable intangible company assets. Understanding how they are interrelated can save you considerable trouble later. And good names can still be found on the Internet or in a box of crayons.