Domain and trademark law

Domain law in Germany and Europe

1. Can I obtain trademark rights with my internet domain?

An internet domain may confer to its proprietor the same rights as a brand name or a trademark. However, according to German domain law, a precondition for such protection to arise is that the domain is used in commerce and that the public perceives the domain name as an indication of origin and not merely as a descriptive reference with respect to the goods or services offered on the website. Thus, the domain must have an intrinsic distinvtive character. For more information, please contact one of our German trademark attorneys.

2. What rights do I obtain by using a domain?

The proprietor of an internet domain obtains exclusive rights by using a domain name, provided that it has a distinctive character. According to German domain law, third parties are prohibited to use the domain name or a similar name in commerce, which is likely to get confused with the earlier domain, without consent of the proprietor. The legal rights which are constituted by using a domain name also have effect against trademarks or other commercial signs.

For a finding of a likelihood of confusion between a domain name and another commercial sign, in addition to the identity or a similarity of the signs (e.g. a domain name and trademark), also the sectors of the opposing companies have to be identical or similar.

In case of questions about domain law or domain name infringement, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our European Trademark Attorneys in Munich will be happy to advise you.

3. Have you received a warning letter or do you want to enforce your trademark rights against a domain?

A warning letter for a possible infringement of a domain name usually includes a request to sign a declaration to cease and desist within a specified term. If the declaration is not signed within the given time limit, the addressee is usually threatened with a legal action. Often, the warning letter also includes an invoice for attorney fees.

If you have received such a warning letter for violation of a internet domain, the circumstances of the case have to be examined thoroughly. To that end, we will need a copy of the warning letter and comments on the circumstances. Please contact us. Our trademark specialists will be happy to advise you and verify, if the warning letter is justified at all.