Protecting your business name and brand names used to be pretty simple. All you had to do was think of a business name and register it with the corporate registry, and think of a brand name and register a trademark.
In today’s digital age, choosing and then protecting a business or brand name is much more complex. When searching for a name, you need to think about how easily it will be found online. The name should be memorable and descriptive, and not easily confused with another brand name. Since every brand should have at least a minimal online presence, you need to make sure the .com and .ca domain names are available—and possibly the .net, .org, .biz and others as well.
With the arrival of social media, brand protection became even more complicated. Whether a business is fully engaged on social media or not, it should at least protect its business and brand names on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, Pinterest and numerous other social-media platforms. And now, just as businesses were starting to catch on to the multiple layers of online brand protection, the internet is about to change again, with the introduction of more than 1,000 new domain extensions. The launch of new generic top-level domains, including .web, .blog, .shop, .inc—and even .yoga, .menu and .sucks—is upon us this year.
But don’t fret about this new level of complexity. There is a form of relief for trademark holders in the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH). I am surprised that so many legal professionals, brand and marketing professionals and business owners have not heard about or caught on to this, as it is one of the most significant developments affecting brand protection in recent history. The TMCH allows you to submit your trademark data for validation once (not 1,000 times) and then be protected across all the various domain extensions during an initial claims period.
Here’s what you need to know about protecting your trademarks by using the TMCH:
What is the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH)?
It’s a global central repository for trademarks. All trademarks that are submitted to the TMCH will be validated by Deloitte and stored in a database operated by IBM. This is the only database of validated trademarks that will be recognized by ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and all the domain-name registries in the world.
Which trademarks are eligible?
- Nationally or regionally registered word marks from all jurisdictions.
- Word marks that have been validated through a court of law.
- Word marks protected by a statute or treaty.
How the TMCH Works
Once trademark information has been submitted and validated by the TMCH, it issues warnings if someone tries to infringe on your trademark during the initial 90-day claims period after a new domain extension launches. Each time a third party attempts to register a domain that matches your trademark stored in the TMCH, a warning is displayed in real time to the party about to carry out the infringement. If the third party proceeds with the domain registration, the trademark owner is notified of the action and is given the ability to dispute the domain registration, thus protecting the trademark and brand.
Trademarks that have been validated by the TMCH and have demonstrated proof of use of their trademark also have priority access to register new domain extensions during a special period called “Sunrise” before registration is opened to the general public. A trademark must be validated by the TMCH and have received a “Signed Mark Data” file in order to participate in any Sunrise registrations. For more information, visit www.webnames.ca/trademark, call 866-470-6820 or email email@example.com.
This column is reposted with the permission of Business in Vancouver, which posted it originally on biv.com.
Cybele Negris is president and co-founder of Vancouver-based Webnames.ca Inc., Canada’s original .ca registrar and one of the country’s leading providers of web hosting and other internet solutions. She has been on the PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs for the past nine years.
More columns by Cybele Negris