I want to create a website for a particular industry. There is a term that is used quite widely in the industry - for the sake of argument, lets say the expression is "great scott". The term is used by a lot of people - and as far as I know, the expression ("great scott" in this example), is in the "public domain", in that it is used freely by all and sundry, and the term is generally understood without having to explicitly state what the words mean.

Having said all that, there is an industry 500lb equivalent gorilla, which has a domain with the domain name www.greatscott.com. However, the domain www.egreatscott.com is available.

What is the risk (or indeed legal basis of) a legal suit from the 500lb gorrila company if I start my website (which is in the same industry), using the domain name www.egreatscott.com ?

Are there any legal precedents for such a law suit?

  • Legal questions aren't going to get useful answers unless you say which jurisdictions are relevant. Commented Dec 3, 2011 at 15:45
  • Looks to me like a typosquatting domain.
    – PeeHaa
    Commented Dec 3, 2011 at 23:10
  • @PeeHaa: I think you have a point ... Commented Dec 4, 2011 at 12:46

4 Answers 4


If the 500 lb gorilla has a trademarked "great scott" (or any reasonably close variation on it) and is in the generally same market as you (as your question would indicate is the case) than you are out of luck.

If, however, they only have a domain (but no registered trademark) then you might get away with it.

Note however, that just because you are legally in the clear may not stop them from suing! Are you willing to take that risk?

  • In the US, nothing can really stop people from suing you. As my own attorney used to say, "Anybody can sue anyone at any time for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all." Commented Dec 5, 2011 at 16:17

If the term "great scott" is widely used, and not trademarked, then nobody can claim it as their own. It would be like Amazon.com trying to claim copyright on "book store".

  • 3
    It's like Apple claiming the copyright of "app store". Oh wait... :P
    – PeeHaa
    Commented Dec 3, 2011 at 23:06

I think the key to your answer is in the fact you say "used quite widely in the industry" as apposed to just in general terms in various industries. The term may be so closely associated with the originator (the gorilla) that they will have grounds for a "piggyback" type law suit where you have tried to use their brand name to further your own.

  • I understand what you are saying - and in fact did think about that "angle of attack" - however thankfully, the term was not coined by the 500lb gorilla (i.e. the "500lb gorrilla" was NOT the originator of that term). As a matter of fact one could argue that the gorilla was piggybacking on the popularity of the term when they established the site www.greatscott.com Commented Dec 3, 2011 at 19:02

The most important test, unless your Nissan Computers, is to verify if anybody can confuse you with the company. If you services don't intersect, and your branding doesn't intersect, you should be safe.

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