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I'm from Ireland and I want to set up an internet radio station. I thought of a good name but someone else from Ireland is planning on using this name. They own *radioname*fm.eu and have Twitter and Facebook page site set up. All the site says is something like "coming soon, we're looking for presenters" etc. Its been like this for nearly 2 years.

Say that I come along and buy *radioname*fm.ie (my countries TLD) and set it up properly in a matter of weeks. Am I doing anything wrong?

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I would suggest renaming the question if your intentions are not to steal their idea, but to create a similar site that happens to coincide with a dormant domain name. –  Metalshark Sep 15 '10 at 18:16

5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It depends if they have a TradeMark or Registered Company Name, otherwise there is nothing legally stopping you.

In answer to your question though "Can I steal someone else's idea?" that is something that falls under Patent law, with regards to content then its under Copyright.

Wanting to set up an Internet radio station is fine, although if the other station actually gets larger, with the shared use of one name it will cause confusion; and if, in retrospect it is the one thing that holds you back from getting big, well you'll kick yourself for not avoiding it.

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I agree, but I'm not a lawyer and Johnny should consult one at some point. Because it's my understanding that legally it may be a bit of a trademark / domain squatting tangle since his site would be functional first, but they registered the domain first. Johnny, definitely see if they have trademarked the name. If so, consult a lawyer now. If not, proceed with your site and consult a lawyer soon. Regardless if they are trademarked or not, the fact that you were up and running before they even had a website should be points in your favor if this goes to court. (so document that fact.) –  robertpateii Sep 15 '10 at 19:39
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It depends on resources, not all have the luxury of affording a lawyer. As long as the big three (Trademark, Patent & Copyright, the first two can be investigated for free on-line) are covered and the activity is good natured then it becomes a matter of tactics when dealing with the incumbent. You have to have your site promoted and fully functioning whilst avoiding them knowing about it until you reach critical mass and they abandon the name. Co-operating is the easiest way out but generally never happens (people get upset when you want to share the pet project they never quite finished). –  Metalshark Sep 16 '10 at 6:05
    
I did a trademark and patent search for ireland and the eu and didnt see this name in use. The thing is, it's not a name made up (e.g. Kerrang), its a common word in a dictionary. Searching Google shows that this *radioname*fm is in use in most countries, except Ireland. It's as common as something like KissFM - available in most countries with different owners. So i dont know if it can be trademarked? Maybe just for the use in Ireland? I only problem i see so far is the confusion of us both using the name. However, if i buy .ie (irish tld) then any google searches of this name will come to me –  Jonathan Sep 16 '10 at 7:12
    
A patent search would only be for anything they've invested: ideas and could be circumvented by using yours instead. However a common radio name, where different organisations around the world are using the same name may cause issues further than the .eu one. Find out if any of these competitors are actively targeting, or operating out of Ireland; but the next step will be yours to decide. It will always be difficult for people to find your station out of a listing with competitors - think about what you can do to portray what you stand for/offer/play. Add it to the name, not the domain. –  Metalshark Sep 16 '10 at 17:23

It'd probably, ultimately, be cheaper to haggle the price of the domain with the owner than it would to be to hire a lawyer.

Have you asked the domain's owner if they're open to the idea of selling?

(Also, you know that Federated States of Micronesia would be happy to sell you a .fm domain, right?)

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This is a really bad idea both from a business and legal perspective because:

  1. This is likely to get you in a situation your radio station has the same name as another radio station, this is likely to confuse visitors, make it harder for you to rank first on Google for your name and it can ruin your reputation if the other station does something bad.

  2. Even if there's nothing wrong with it legally (I said IF), there is nothing stopping them from sending you legal notices, threatening to sue or suing you, even if they have no way to actually win you still have to pay a good lawyer to defend you.

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I hate to say this, but Jeff Atwood's blog about this. Pretty much sums it up for me.

This is of course beyond the legal aspect, so the real question is can you?

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Thanks for this –  Jonathan Sep 17 '10 at 7:41
    
@jonny You're welcome. –  Talvi Watia Sep 18 '10 at 7:04

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, and this is not qualified legal advice.

Johnny, first off, if you're seriously considering this, then go see a good lawyer. And be sure to consult with a lawyer who specializes in business and/or immaterial property laws; and not, for example, a divorce lawyer.

Before seeing a lawyer, you should read up on the basics so that you can be more efficient when meeting the lawyer, and you'll require fewer (expensive) billable hours. Here is a mini-overview of the different types of immaterial property laws to get you started.

You're not stealing their idea; and even if you where, ideas cannot generally be protected legally. If anything, you're building a company that might be at risk for a trademark dispute, and could potentially lose the right to do business under its name.

If you go ahead -- and just to be clear, that might very well be both possible and smart -- then be sure to get the trademark on the name. Trademark it both in Ireland and in the EU while you're at it. Having the trademark is not a 100% guarantee against future problems, because trademarks can be revoked under certain circumstances, but it is the "legal high ground" if it comes to court proceedings.

My advice would be:

  • If you can get the trademark, proceeding may be an option. Consider the alternatives, and discuss your exposure with your lawyer, but it is doable if you want to.
  • If you can't get the trademark, then absolutely don't do it.

One last thing -- have you thought about contacting those other guys, and maybe do a joint-venture with them instead.

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