The domain name vs brand question becomes particularly important when you consider that nowadays, a website has become an essential means of communication for an average entrepreneur. Even more so, having a website on the internet (and thus a domain name) is, in reality, akin to owning a property whose value is destined to grow!
You already know that for a property to have a high value, it must be well-located and able to attract customers if you decide to start a business there. However, the concept of domain name is easily confused with that of "brand." How can you establish the difference between domain name vs brand? And more importantly, how can you avoid making mistakes that can be harmful to your business?
Domain Name vs Brand: What does the literature say?
If you sell your own product or service, it goes without saying that you probably thought of giving it a brand name to differentiate it from the competition. You might even have been selling your product long before the internet arrived and well before business websites existed. As a result, you are somewhat "forced" to follow the trend and create your website, reflecting your brand.
Here, we shift towards the concept of domain names.
You will inevitably have to go through a registrar to reserve this web address, which will now point to your business website. Two main scenarios exist:
- A domain name identical to your brand is available and patiently waiting for you to register it under your name;
- Someone else has already registered the domain name you wanted so much! Too bad…
What should you do in each scenario? To provide answers to this question, we should first agree on what a domain name is and what a brand is.
Domain Name vs Brand: What is a Domain Name?
We already answered this question in our article: How to choose a domain name? which we strongly recommend reading. However, that won't stop us from giving you a brief (and friendly 🙂) reminder.
A domain name is a textual address that points to a website's location on a server. In the early days of the internet, users had to use numerical addresses like 192.168.02.26 to access the websites they wanted to visit. However, we can all imagine that remembering a series of numbers to connect to a site quickly becomes tiring or even impossible.
Domain names were thus born! Instead of typing 126.96.36.199, now you just write www.google.com, and you're there!
This is how Moroccan websites end up with addresses like www.nomdesite.mawith .ma being what's called a TLD (or Top Level Domain), or more specifically, a ccTLD: Country Code Top Level Domain.
And speaking of Moroccan sites, did you know that Nindohost can help you purchase and reserve your .ma domain name?
Domain Name vs Brand: What is a Brand?
To provide a good answer to this question, we consulted the official Moroccan Registry website (www.registre.ma). So, according to this official source:
A brand is "a sign capable of graphical representation used to distinguish the products or services of a natural or legal person." It's a sign that allows the consumer to identify the product or service they are acquiring.
[…] The brand must be distinctive, lawful, and available.
According to the same website, a brand is considered an asset that can be sold, transferred, or purchased. It thus requires a certain level of protection from its holder. Trademark registration is an essential tool for protecting this sign and benefiting from an exclusive right to use it for 10 years, renewable indefinitely.
The Domain Name vs Brand Issue
Now, we all know that a domain name (like a brand) can easily become the subject of a dispute, and it even happens that people or entities resort to court to settle the matter.
Acquiring a domain name is generally based on the "first come, first served" rule. Indeed, unlike the concept of a brand, a domain name is a technical means for locating a website. This implies that it is not subject to registration (as for a brand) and does not represent intellectual property rights.
We cannot, in the context of this article, discuss the legal issue of domain name vs brand. However, we recommend consulting the following article that examines the subject more closely:
According to the article we just cited, an entrepreneur has a duty to protect their brand by all available means. Therefore, never assume that simply buying an available domain name means that their brand is protected. It is the brand registration that guarantees its protection.
What to do if the brand name is available as a domain name?
It's good news, of course. But let's not jump the gun and wait before celebrating. There is still one last step to go through.
Now it's time to make sure that this brand does not conflict with another one already in circulation! To do this, you'll need to search among entities responsible for brand registration and intellectual property. This is called a "trademark priority search" that can be performed in the following databases:
- OMPIC: http://www.ompic.ma/fr/content/recherche-dans-les-bases-de-donees-ompic
- OHIM: https://www.tmdn.org/tmview/welcome.html?lang=en
For more information, please refer to the same article in the Moroccan Register above.
What if someone has already taken my brand name as a domain name?
Here's another slightly complex scenario!
If the holder of this domain name has already taken the time to register their own brand (assuming they use a domain name identical to their brand name), one could say they are well protected. In fact, the mere fact that they have a brand name identical to yours implies that you are not entitled to use the same!
Otherwise, you still have the option of requesting arbitration from the competent authorities (courts, ANRT, etc.) and you will have to justify your priority rights in terms of trademark registration. The current domain name holder may still justify their vital need to use this address concerning its commercial value.
In any case, and to avoid getting lost in the endless labyrinths of web jurisprudence (especially since Moroccan legal arsenal in this area is not mature enough), we prefer to summarize as follows:
- If you have the possibility, upstream during the creation of your business, to choose an authentic and unique brand, you will be quite certain to find the corresponding domain name;
- Take enough time to thoroughly check the authenticity of your brand. Do not hesitate to consult the relevant institutions and do not hesitate to use the services of a specialized lawyer or firm;
- When you find the domain name that corresponds to your brand and activity, think about protecting it properly. Do not hesitate to purchase the most important variants with popular extensions that will serve your business.
Regarding the domain name vs brand question, we cannot provide exhaustive answers, but we can already set you on the right path. If you feel the need to know more, leave us a comment at the bottom of the article.