Protecting your name is both simple and complex. It is simple because once you have registered your name and the registration company has checked it, it is yours until your name comes up for renewal. This is generally every one to two years. However, there are numerous problems that can arise.
A domain name is intellectual property and can be regarded as a trade mark. This can prove to be a tough situation for small businesses as budgets are often tight. Ian Gill, an associate at patent and trademark attorneys A A Thornton, explains:
"Problems can happen when a business or individual finds out that someone else has registered the same name or has a business of the same name. In this situation we try and reach an amicable agreement. If not, the courts may be the only option."
This problem has been highlighted recently by some 30 companies that have the name easy in their title. They claim that the term easy is generic and that one group, in this case the EasyGroup, owners of EasyJet and EasyRentaCar, cannot dominate it.
According to Nominet, however, more than 99.9% of registrations do not cause any concern to third parties. But as more people get online instances such as these as well as cyber squatting - when someone buys a famous brand/domain name to sell it on for a large profit, for example Marksandspencer.com - are becoming more frequent.
If you have a small budget, then going to court may not be an advisable option. Gill agrees: "Many smaller companies are forced to wait and see what happens. If someone has the same name and you want to register it, you will have to have some legitimate interest in the mark but it is very difficult to stop them using it."
Here are some valuable pointers to help you protect your name:
Register your name - only you can do this
Use the trade mark you have and see what problems arise - if any
If you are in doubt go to a patent specialist or an organisation such as Nominet and have a thorough search carried out.