Businesses commonly protect the names they use to trade by registering a trade mark or a domain name. There are, however, differences in the type of protection that a trade mark or domain name provides. By understanding the purpose and type of protection each provides, you can equip yourself with the appropriate information to prevent other people from operating their business under your name.

What is a domain name?

A domain name refers to a business’ website address. This is the name that people use to exist online, and is the address that customers or clients will use to access information about the business. In this way, it is important to have a domain name that is related to your business, as it can build on your business’ brand, as well as customer recognition. For example, if my retail store were called Jenny’s Antique Book Store, I would most likely want to set up a website with a domain name such as jennysantiquebooks.com.au.

There are different types of domain names, which refer to different types of organisations, including:

  • .com.au or .net.au used for commercial entities;
  • .org.au used for non-commercial entities;
  • .gov.au used for government associations; or
  • .edu.au used for educational institutions.

Businesses most commonly fall into the category of domain names that end in .com.au or .net.au. As more consumers move online to interact with different businesses, registering a domain name can be a way for your business to market and interact with your customers.

How do I register a domain name?

You can buy a domain name through various resellers. However, to obtain a domain name that ends in .au, the administering body, .au Domain Administration Ltd (.auDA), will need to approve your purchase. As part of this criteria, your business needs to have either an Australian Company Number or Australian Business Number. You will be able to use your registered domain name as your online business address to direct your customers.

What is a trade mark?

A trade mark refers to a sign that is used to differentiate your business from your competitors. The sign can include a logo, a name, a slogan or a diagram, to name a few. By registering a trade mark you will be able to:

  • exclusively use your trade mark in the class of goods or services you registered;
  • sell or license the use of your trade mark; and
  • prevent or stop other people from using your trade mark.

If your trade mark is a name or a slogan, you will also be able to register this as a domain name if it is available. If it is not available, you may have a stronger cause of action against the domain name owner because of your trade mark rights. Practically, what this means is that you may be able to stop them from using the domain name they have registered.

Conclusion

A trade mark and a domain name are two different ways to protect your business’ brand identity. Although a registered trade mark provides you with exclusive use of a particular sign, registering a domain name can provide you with the practical benefits, as it allows you to use and protect the name online. At LegalVision, we can discuss with you the importance of registering a trade mark or a domain name and the different types of protection they provide.

Kristine Biason

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