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  Should the name of a corporation or a domain name be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as a trade or service mark?

A mark identifies the source of a product or service. A domain name has the more limited role of identifying the address of a person on the web. The name of a corporation identifies obviously the corporation itself, but is not always used for the products or services that it sells. A corporation can use a name to identify itself (by adding a suffix such as "Inc." to indicate limited liability), as a domain name (by adding a top domain name such as ".com"), or as a trade or service mark.

In the US, the rights in a mark are acquired through use of the mark in interstate commerce. Therefore, a corporate name can have validity as a mark only if it is used for the promotion of the goods or services. In that case, it is important to first search and then register the mark because, even though a mark exists as soon as it is used and does not need legally to be registered, the registration does create a presumption of validity, it gives a date of priority, can be registered with U.S. Customs to block unauthorized products, and facilitates an eventual lawsuit for infringement or counterfeiting.

By Pierre Cournot, Attorney at Law in New York.
If you have questions, you can e-mail Pierre at

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