NOTE: We are not lawyers and this isn't legal advice. We recommend that you consult with a lawyer for any real-life trademark issues.
K: Got another reader question for you. Reader asks "Is it ok to use the names of products in my domain names?"
R: Well, that's actually a pretty good question, and it's something that we have put a lot of thought into. Because the cool thing about getting a product name in your domain is that if you have an exact match domain, it'll help you rank for whatever the name of that product is. So it's something that, if you can get away with it, it's pretty awesome. You want to be able to get a product name in your domain. However, there is this whole issue with the law and trademarks.
K: Damn the law.
R: It's really... fucked up. We hate the law. And that's why we're gangsters, and we try to break the law. Or bend it.
K: Yeah, so it turns out that any trademark lawyer will tell you that if that product name is a trademark, then you can't use it in your domain. With that said, we see tons of people doing this left right and center, all over the internet, and it works.
R: It's not a matter of whether it's legal or not, in practice it's a matter of whether or not the owner of that trademark or that product is going to actually care whether you're using it. And two, whether they're going to try to go after you to enforce it, and then also it's a matter of... are you trying to sell their product as an affiliate, or are you trying to sell someone else's product and redirect that traffic? Because I'll tell you, if you're trying to sell someone else's product using the name of their product in a domain, you're not going to get away with it. Because they're not going to like that and they're definitely going to try to stop you from doing that and it won't be hard. However if you're an affiliate of theirs and you're selling their product using their product name, you might be alright. Now the question becomes, do you ask them if it's ok to use that in the domain, or do you just do it and then ask for forgiveness later?
K: Yeah. I mean basically this is something we struggle with, but we seem to think that it's ok to just do it, and if you find out that they don't like it you can always stop.
R: Yeah I mean the whole thing is that a domain costs like eight bucks, but if you can rank on the first page with an exact match domain, it can be worth a whole lot of money. So now the question becomes, what are your chances of them liking or disliking what you're doing? They might like it. You know, if they really don't know much and they're just trying to sell their product, they may just be happy that they've got another site that's ranking for their product that's trying to sell their own product. It might work out totally fine, I mean I own a number of different product domains where we know the people who own the products and ship the products out, and they're more than happy to have us just trying to sell their product on that domain. They're not really interested in owning it for whatever reason, and we're using it. So, whatever. But it comes down to the relationship I guess. It's a gray area.
K: Yeah, it's a gray area. And it also depends on a number of things too. If you're registering their product name in maybe a different country, they may be more willing to let you do that too because it's especially not cannibalizing their sales if it's a country that they don't normally go for.
R: That's possible. Then you just need to know if they can ship it out there and stuff I guess. But yeah. So yeah. From a legal standpoint, you're absolutely in hot water if you're using somebody's trademark, even if you're just using something that's similar to a trademark, it can be.. not sure, potential lawsuit on your hands, who knows.. but if you're working with them and not against them, then you can probably get away with it.
K: Yeah. You know, another thing to check is some affiliate programs actually have specific provisions about this in their agreement, and you should check that out.