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Suppose I want to buy a domain name called AAAA2.com where AAAA is a special name, like a movie name for example.

Are there any legal issues or intellectual rules that can make me lose the ownership of this domain name?

what about these ones :

  • AAAA*2*.com
  • AAAA2-themovie.com
  • ...

Thank you

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3 Answers

If you use someone's trademark without permission or a decent reason (eg. it is also your name or something like that) then you will likely lose it if it attracts attention.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark

http://www.bytestart.co.uk/content/legal/35%5F2/trade-marks-and-domain-na.shtml

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does google2.com for example obey to the same rules of trademarks? –  user14784 Sep 15 '09 at 14:11
    
@martani_net - see here: marketingpilgrim.com/2009/09/… –  TheCleaner Sep 15 '09 at 14:14
    
ok, for google it seems a little serious! they are movies in my case. thanx for the answer ;) –  user14784 Sep 15 '09 at 14:24
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Movie titles can't be copyrighted from what I understand. So in that case I would assume you would be just fine. Of course, I'm not a lawyer so if you are really that concerned about it just check with one.

Others seem to get away with it just fine though...such as http://www.transformermovie.com/

Read this:

http://www.marklitwak.com/faq/titles.html

Trademarks protect product and service names, and company names. When a certain name becomes associated with a certain product or service, trademark rights arise. Some of these rights arise simply from use of the mark. Additional protections arise if you decide to register your trademark. Examples of famous trademarks are Xerox, Apple and IBM. If you are in the computer business, you cannot market your computers as Apple computers unless you have the permission of the company known by that name. Likewise, you cannot set up a hamburger stand across the street from McDonald's and call yourself McDonald's, put up golden arches, or in any way try to pass off your hamburgers as legitimate McDonald's hamburgers, when they are not.

However, titles of individual products like a movie are generally not eligible for trademark protection. Only a series of products from a single source, such as sequels or a television series such as Bonanza, can be protected under trademark law. However, for a one-shot project like a movie, the title would not be protected. The title, however, could possibly be protected under the laws of unfair competition once the title has acquired a secondary meaning. A movie cannot have a secondary meaning with the public before it is released. Thus, after George Lucas had produced and distributed Star Wars, another filmmaker could not distribute a movie called Star Wars II, and trade on the goodwill and name recognition of the original. This would be unfair competition, and would violate various federal and state laws. Whether the use of a name on a product or service violates the trademark rights, or violates various unfair competition laws, may be a difficult call.

Trademark rights are often restricted to a geographical area or type of product. For example, if you operate the Acme Hardware Store in Los Angeles, it would not necessarily prevent someone else from opening an Acme Hardware Store in Brooklyn, a location where you do not do business. Likewise, the fact that you operate a Hardware Store under the mark "Acme" would not prevent someone from setting up the Acme Supermarket because people do not associate hardware and food together. In other words, there is little likelihood of confusion.

Another way to protect titles is with registration with the MPAA. This is protection by contract law, through an arrangement between the MPAA companies and any independent producers who choose to join. It is a contract wherein all parties agree not to infringe each other's titles. There are some limitations because the deal is only binding on those people who choose to sign it. If you wish to contact the MPAA Title Registration Bureau, their number is (818) 995-6600. (source: MarkLitwak.com)

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I've already registred the domain name, but I want to know when the 2nd movie comes out, I'll have to give it or not :) –  user14784 Sep 15 '09 at 14:16
    
Like this? transformers3.com Again, my understanding of the law would state that it isn't a legal infringement. Movie companies are smart enough to buy up the ones they want for a movie ahead of time...but again consult a lawyer or a legal forum. –  TheCleaner Sep 15 '09 at 14:19
    
movie titles can be a trademark. sites like these don't last long and count on getting traffic for ads before they lose the domain. If you bought the site in good faith and the title in some way matches what you have on there then you might get to keep it. Basically money rules the world and movie studios are not a good enemy to have. :P –  JamesRyan Sep 15 '09 at 14:50
    
Titles cannot be copyrighted, but they can be trademarked. Trademarks are frequently the subject of litigation since you have to defend your trademark or risk losing it because of neglect. My understanding is that domain names based on trademarked terms may or may not be in danger since they have to prove that you were willfully intending to infringe upon their trademark for specific reasons (i.e., cybersquatting, competition, etc.). I don't think you can lose the domain for things like parodies or criticism. –  Ed Leighton-Dick Sep 15 '09 at 15:58
    
Of course in the case of Transformers, it is not only a movie name but a trademarked product as well. –  geeklin Sep 15 '09 at 16:06
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The issue you are running into is that domain name registration is a world-wide system, and many copyright and trademark laws are not applicable in certain countries. Therefore it is a murky and mostly un-tested area.

For example, what if you register a domain in Russia, a .com, for a company that exists both there and the US? What if they both have copyright and/or trademarks in their respective countries?

Most movie production companies are smart enough to buy up the domains that they want for their movies; and would not go after you for any kind of infringement. If they do want to go after you, and you live in the US, then they could file suit in court for trademark (if they trademarked the movie's name) violation. If you live internationally, they could file a complaint with the WIPO Domain Dispute Resolution panel which could result in you having to turn over the domain name. This takes a lot of time, probably longer than the domain would be useful to them.

This, or any legal action, costs them a lot of money, so they won't proceed on any suit unless you've really ticked them off or took a domain they really want.*

* I am not a lawyer but I work with a bunch of them

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