A trademark is a name or logo used by a company to identify its goods or services. For example, eBay® is the name of our company, but it is also a trademark used on our site and on various eBay products. Coca Cola® is a trademark used in the sale of soft drinks. Many trademarks are registered, but a trademark need not be registered for an owner to protect it. Trademark laws are primarily designed to protect consumers from confusing one company's goods or services with those of another.
Trademark infringement usually involves using someone's trademark on a good or service in a way that may confuse others about the source or affiliation of the goods or services. For example, if a seller unauthorized by or unaffiliated with Nike® sells sports clothes called "Nikestuff," the seller is probably infringing Nike's trademark. There are other ways to infringe a trademark, including registering domain names that are substantially similar to the name of a trademark owner.
A domain name is an address that is used for identifying and locating computers on the Internet (for example, www.ebay.com and www.ebaymotors.com). Many companies register domain names that contain their trademarks. For example, eBay owns www.ebay.com. The Coca Cola Company owns www.cocacola.com and www.coke.com. Read more information on eBay domain names.
If a person operates a website using a domain name that contains someone else's trademark (for example, "www.nikestuff.com"), people who see or visit that domain name are likely to be confused and believe that the site is affiliated with Nike when it is not. People may also mistakenly go to this website thinking it's connected with the other company, only to find out that it is not. Intentional misspellings of and similarities to trademarked names (for example, www.wwwebay.com, www.amizon.com) may also be considered trademark infringements. Just because a company hasn't registered all variations of its name or trademark as domain names doesn't mean that others can use those domain names. If the domain names are likely to confuse consumers, they're probably infringing.
In 1999, the United States Congress passed the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, which generally prohibits using a domain name containing another's trademark with an intent to profit. That law allows penalties of up to $100,000 per domain name abuse incident; anyone who in bad faith uses, sells, or tries to sell a domain name that infringes another's trademark may be fined.
Offering to sell a domain name may be used to establish "bad faith" and could expose you to serious liability. This new law may cover domains containing people's names if those names are considered trademarks (for example, www.jacknicklaus.com). The use of a domain containing another's trademark also may violate pre-existing trademark law.
Important: This information is not intended to be legal advice. If a member has any doubts about whether an item or domain name can be sold on eBay, eBay encourages the member to contact the trademark owner or consult an attorney.