When you reg­is­ter a domain name, it doesn’t auto­mat­i­cally gain trade­mark rights. You only acquire trade­mark rights if your domain name is dis­tinc­tive through cus­tomer aware­ness and you are the first to use it in com­merce. Amazon.com is a good example.

If you’ve cho­sen a domain name and it’s avail­able, you should prob­a­bly do a quick trade­mark search to see if there’s a direct hit. If you don’t get a hit, you might con­sider buy­ing it because some­one else might beat you to it first. Names don’t cost much. If it turns out that it vio­lates some­one else’s trade­mark, you can always trans­fer it to them (but beware of trade­mark dilu­tion). Then you can do a more thor­ough search. If you get a hit, you can go back to the draw­ing board.

If you’ve found a good name, but some­one else has already reg­is­tered it and is using it as a trade­mark, then you should move along and choose some­thing else. If they’re not using it as a trade­mark, you can always offer to buy the domain name from them.

If you already estab­lished trade­mark rights and some­one has taken the domain name based on your trade­mark pri­mar­ily for the pur­pose of sell­ing it to you, they are a cyber-squatter. You may sue them in fed­eral court or use a pro­ce­dure through ICANN to force them to trans­fer the name to you.

One other thing about the inter­net. If any­one, any­where can pur­chase your goods or ser­vices through your web­site, then the trade­mark on those goods or ser­vices is more than likely given national pro­tec­tion. The same is true of a mail order busi­ness in a national magazine.