I own a domain containing a trademarked word. I don't want to get into trouble with the trademark owner so my plan is to use the domain to display information (wiki-style) about the service the trademark owner provides. My question is whether I can display ads on this website to make money. For example, let's say I own Google.org (Google being a trademark). On this domain I would write about the real Google (history, business etc.) Can I get into trouble for having ads on this page including ones that promote other search engines (Yahoo, Bing, etc.).

  • In particular, I'm curious whether a website with a trademarked keyword in the domain can be in trouble if it's only describing the trademark owner's product/service. I suppose wikipedia doesn't get permission from every company whether they can create a page about their brand. But is this purely because even though the trademark is in the url (e.g. wikipedia.org/wiki/Google) it is not part of the domain name itself? What if wikipedia owned google.org and displayed the wiki about google on there. – architect Nov 15 '11 at 17:56
  • There's a big difference between the trademark being part of the path and it being in your domain. (This isn't "legal" information but) it's basically accepted that paths and files represent information on the site, eg. filenames often derive from headlines; largely unavoidable. The actual domain on the other hand is considered to be "branding" of a sort and things in there kind of implied to be "owned" by you, at least in practical terms. (Here I repeat that you need to talk to a lawyer for information you can actually act on. This case has been lost too many times for you to take chances.) – Su' Nov 16 '11 at 10:21
  • It's also worth noting that trademark owners regularly file(and often win) cases to seize even misspellings of their marks. Right now, Twitter is trying to gain control of both twittter.com and twittr.com. One of those doesn't have information on it at all, much less anything that might be misconstrued as representing Twitter. – Su' Nov 16 '11 at 10:29

To your actual question, sure you can display ads wherever you want; it's your site.

If you have a domain that includes a trademarked term, then go ahead and use it to talk about the product/service/whatever that trademark is attached to or possibly competitors(eg. in the ads), you need to get hold of a trademark attorney, and work out with them how, if at all, you can do that without basically asking to have the domain seized by the trademark owner. There are a few previous questions about this floating around if you do a little digging.

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  • Mainly it depends on the ad provider. For example Amazon won't let you into their referral program if you have a trademarked term in the domain name. – DisgruntledGoat Nov 15 '11 at 15:03

You probably don't want to use a trademarked name in your domain name regardless of how you plan to use it unless you have the explicit consent of the trademark holder. Some companies are fairly generous in granting this consent while others can be quite nasty about even perceived and questionable trademark violations (example, ask anyone who has tried to use 'bay' or 'monster' in a domain name). If you don't seek consent, then you'll have your site on the edge of destruction all them time. That's not where you want to be if you want to have a long term web property that you spend time and money developing.

Should you get consent, then how you conduct your advertising will depend on the conditions of that consent. For example, one popular forum I know of uses the trademark name in their domain with the permission of the trademark owner. They show Adsense ads that frequently display competing products and the trademark owner doesn't seem to have a problem with it. Another similar forum in a different niche is only allowed to show ads from the trademark owner and their authorized dealers.

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  • Thank you both for the feedback. The issue is a bit more complicated due to the fact, that the keyword in my domain is trademarked in one language, but is a generic dictionary word in another (but similar) language where it couln't be trademarked. My domain is a dot net. I would think that if I display content in the language in which the word cannot be trademarked, I would not be infringing the rights of the trademark holder... – architect Nov 15 '11 at 17:31

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