It used to be simpler to protect your business name and brand names: think of a business name and register it with the corporate registry; think of a brand name and register a trademark.
But in today's digital age, choosing and then protecting that name is much more complex.
When searching for your company name you need to think about how easily it will be found online. The name should be memorable and descriptive and not easily confused with another brand name. Because every brand should have at least a minimal online presence, you need to make sure the .com and .ca domain names are available and possibly the .net, .org, .biz and more.
With the arrival of social media, brand protection became even more complicated. Whether a business is fully engaged on social media or not, it should at least protect its names on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Four square, Pinterest and across the numerous social media platforms. Now, just as businesses were starting to catch on to the multiple layers of online brand protection, the Internet is about to change again, with the introduction of more than 1,000 new domain extensions. The launch of generic top-level domains like .web, .blog, .shop, .inc, .yoga, .menu or even .sucks is upon us this year.
There is one form of relief for trademark holders in the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH). I am surprised that legal professionals, brand and marketing professionals and business owners have not heard about or caught on to this because it is one of the most significant developments affecting brand protection in recent history.
TMCH allows companies or entrepreneurs to submit their trademark data for validation once (not a thousand times) and then be protected across all the various domain extensions during an initial claims period.
Here's what you need to know about protecting your trademarks by using the TMCH.
What is the Trademark Clearinghouse?
The Trademark Clearinghouse acts as a global central repository for trademarks. All trademarks that are submitted to the TMCH will be validated by Deloitte and stored in a database operated by IBM.
This is the only database of validated trademarks that will be recognized by ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and all domain name registries in the world.
What trademarks are eligible?
•Nationally or regionally registered word marks from all jurisdictions.
•Word marks that have been validated through a court of law.
•Word marks protected by a statute or treaty.
How does the TMCH work?
Once the TMCH has vali dated trademark information and during the initial 90-day claims period after a new domain extension launches, warnings are issued if someone tries to infringe on your trademark.
Each time a third party attempts to register a domain that matches your trademark stored in the TMCH, a warning is displayed in real time to the party about to carry out the infringement.
If the third party proceeds with the domain registration, the trademark owner is notified of the action and is allowed to dispute the domain registration, thus protecting the trademark and brand.
Trademarks that have been validated by the TMCH and have demonstrated proof of use of their trademark also have priority access to register new domain extensions during a special "sunrise" period before registration is opened to the general public.
A trademark must be validated by the TMCH and have received a "signed mark data" file in order to participate in any sunrise registrations.
My company, Webnames.ca, in partnership with Deloitte, is hosting an informational webinar about the TMCH on June 11.