Domain names vs Trademarks

From: Cyverlaw@SA

M Viljoen
GM du Plessis
G Vivier
BEng (Electronics Eng) BCom LLB

Differences between trademark registrations and domain name registrations
To understand the peculiar difficulties underlying domain name disputes, it is necessary to have some background regarding the resolution of domain name disputes internationally, and the difference between the domain name registration system and the general system of registration of trademarks throughout the world.

First, each domain name must be unique, whereas under the trademarks
registration system in general, there can be a multitude of identical trademarks coexisting on the register; for example, if they are used and registered for different goods or services, or used and registered in different territories. However, of all the proprietors that own the identical trademark, only one can register and use the corresponding domain name. By way of example, there are a number of proprietors that use the same trademark STERLING, but for different goods and services. Only one of them would be allowed to register the domain name in South Africa.


Second, registration is allowed of any domain name that is not exactly identical to a domain name registered earlier. It therefore does not prohibit the allocation of similar (even confusingly similar) domain names to different proprietors in the same business. For example, could be registered by the proprietor of the trademark STERLING and by a competitor, although the principles of trademark law prohibit the use of confusingly similar trademarks, as mentioned earlier…

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