Heads up starters! Your domain name does not protect the name of your business

Useful aren’t they, all those lists that tell you everything you need to think about when you start your own business? ‘Register your domain name’ is usually there by default. Be careful though: registering a domain name does not protect the name of your business. How do you do that? Quite simply, by registering the name as a trademark with BOIP.  

  • With a domain name you have a unique name on the internet. 
  • A domain name does not give you the right to be the only one who can use that name though.    
  • You can only have the exclusive right to the name of your business or product by registering your trademark. 
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Unique name on the internet 

Just to be clear, of course it is both convenient and a good idea to register your domain name. With a domain name you have a unique name on the internet which no-one else can use. You can register any domain name as long as it is still available. For instance, if you sell shoes and you call them Lollypops, it might be a good idea to register the domain name www.lollypops.nl or www.lollypops.be.  

Domain name variations 

To avoid any confusion or misrepresentation you can also register a few variations of your domain name. Depending on the countries where you are active you can choose a number of extensions such as .com, .net, and .eu. You can also include hyphens in your domain name, such as www.lolly-pops.nl. Registering all the possible variations though is often unnecessary.  

No right of use to the name 

What a domain name does not do is protect the name of your business or your products. If, as a shoe shop, you only register your domain name, you cannot prevent anyone else from using the name Lollypops for another shoe shop. The only way to protect the name of your product or your business is to register your trademark with BOIP. 

What you can do with a registered trademark 

With a registered trademark you can prevent others from using the name of your product or your business without your permission. That is also true for domain names. If you register the trademark ‘Lollypops’ for a shoe shop, no-one else may sell shoes under that name. Someone else may sell bicycles under the name Lollypops though because your protection for Lollypops is only valid for shoes.   

It is not possible to register a descriptive name as a trademark 

You can only register a trademark that is not descriptive. This means that the name cannot describe your product or service. ‘Lollypop’ is therefore a good name for a shoe shop. ‘Ladies’ shoe’ or ‘Men’s shoe’ is not. You can, of course, register those as domain names, if they are still available, and link them to your Lolly-pop webpage.  

Your trade name is not a trademark 
The terms trade name and trademark are frequently mixed up, but they are two very different things. The trade name is the name of your business. If you only register that name – with the Chamber of Commerce or through a recognised enterprise counter – you do not have any exclusive right in respect of that name. You can only gain that exclusive right by registering the name of your business as a trademark. 
We explain it all in this video

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