How can retailers protect their online domains?

At a time when ecommerce is growing strongly, etailers need to pay more attention to the protection of online assets.

A recent trademark infringement and passing off claim brought by UK retailer Argos against US-based Argos Systems has highlighted the value of domain names and other intangible assets.

The dispute revolves around the domain name www.argos.com, which was registered by the US company in 1992.

Argos UK claimed that a number of its customers were being led to the wrong domain mistakenly. Once there, Google AdSense was displaying advertisements from rival retailers on the US site.

Intellectual property firm Withers & Rogers’ associate and trademark attorney Mark Caddle says: “Selecting a name which is unique in nature is important for not only establishing the individuality of the brand, but also minimising the risk that similar domain names already exist.

“Wider considerations also extend to Twitter handles and other social media account names, which help to secure a brand’s online presence.”

Geographical areas should also be a factor when choosing a domain name.

“The .com URL is seen as a prime piece of real estate and ownership of this domain name could prove advantageous in the long term, even when running a UK-based business,” says Caddle.

There is a growing awareness of the value of domain names among retailers.

“For any business with a sophisticated online presence, monitoring and being aware of companies using trademarks owned by other entities in domain names is key to batting off competition,” says Caddle.

“Engaging domain name monitoring services can be a useful step to help keep track of when similar ones are being registered.”