With the boom in online business, one of the first steps you will take in starting your own online business is to register a domain name. That way, once you have your website and user interface developed, you can start advertising your page and sending the URL out to all and sundry.

What is the difference?

Much confusion exists between what trademarking achieves and what having a domain name achieves. Once a domain name is registered, many people believe that their name is protected and no further action needs to be taken to stop another person using the name.

The situation is more nuanced and it’s important to know the difference between owning a domain name and trademarking a brand to ensure you don’t get caught out.

What is a domain name?

A domain name is part of a network address which identifies it as belonging to a particular domain. Generally, domains do not need to be trademarked to be protected legally. So if you register a domain name; www.shadyfox.com.au then no one else can register the domain name www.shadyfox.com.au. The domain is simply not available!

Do I still need to trademark?

So no one can take your domain name, www.shadyfox.com.au. That’s great, but will this be all you need to protect your brand? Perhaps not. Let’s say that Shady Fox is the name of your bar. Having the domain name shadyfox.com.au would not prevent someone else from starting up a bar down the street, also called Shady Fox. It would just prevent the other bar from having the same domain name. Would that bother the owners of the other bar? Probably not. When you tell your friends to meet you at a particular bar, you don’t tell them to meet you at the shady fox dot com dot au, do you? You tell them to meet you at the Shady Fox.

So there you have your answer. To stop another bar opening up down the road called Shady Fox, you need to trademark.

Trademarking in Australia prevents similar businesses from using a name that is either identical or similar enough to yours that it would confuse customers. This is what’s important when you want to protect your brand – to stop others poaching a great name or to pass themselves off as the same brand.

Conclusion

The best strategy is to register your domain name and couple this with trademark registration. This way you’ll have the perfect name and a matching URL. Customers will be able to easily identify your business and straightaway find your brand online by typing in the name followed by .com.au or an alternative.

Chloe Sevil
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