Domain name trademark infringement?

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#1 AVReidy  Icon User is offline

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Domain name trademark infringement?

Posted 21 April 2012 - 07:55 PM

I had an idea for a website, and I would really like to make it a reality. Unfortunately, it would not have any reason to exist if it were not for CollegeBoard and the SAT. Also, I would need to use the trademarked SAT acronym in my domain name. My goal isn't to make money, but CollegeBoard could probably care less what I gain from it; if it becomes popular, they would only be (rightfully) worried that it would take away from their profit in the way of practice material purchases (since my site would offer something similar for free).

I know this is totally unethical from a business standpoint; you could picture that my prospective site is to CollegeBoard as Napster was to the record industry (or something along those lines... not quite as devastating, and not illegal if you take trademarks out of it). But do I have any rights if I create a successful website that clearly offers, let's say, study material for the SAT that is "branded" under a domain name like thecoolsat.com? Would a court laugh at me if I argued that the domain was meant to be read as the coolsat (one word)?

I'm pretty sure there's no way around this since the site would clearly and actually explicitly be made for the SAT, but please let me know your opinions and fill me in on any interesting trademark law that I should know.

Thanks everyone!

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Replies To: Domain name trademark infringement?

#2 no2pencil  Icon User is offline

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Re: Domain name trademark infringement?

Posted 21 April 2012 - 08:05 PM

Contact a lawyer. You risk losing the domain name, any content, & you would be out any money & time you invested.
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#3 baavgai  Icon User is offline

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Re: Domain name trademark infringement?

Posted 22 April 2012 - 03:41 AM

You've spend a lot of thought justifying your position. And are worried enough about the situation to ask others. Don't you think this alone is a sign? That we're even here should tell you to back away.

What's in a name? Your domain name can be anything. Make it short, amusing, provocative. It needn't contain any trademarks. Just have some loose association with something you're about. Something like prereg.com would be clear to anyone searching for you.

Think outside the box and choose a name that won't stress you.
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#4 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: Domain name trademark infringement?

Posted 22 April 2012 - 11:46 PM

THe acronym might be trademarked, but there's a lot that wouldn't be covered by that.

whereitsat.com
yousatinpoo.com
thatsatleastadollar.com

and so forth. If you came up with something that included the characters 's', 'a', and 't' in sequence ... okay, they'd still crush you like a bug, but you'd have a great story.

Any time you're wondering about legal ramifications of an idea, and it actually matters to you, consult a lawyer. Asking us makes as much sense as asking for programming advice on a lawyers' forum. You might get lucky, but there's no reason to think you will.
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#5 Craig328  Icon User is offline

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Re: Domain name trademark infringement?

Posted 23 April 2012 - 06:09 AM

Uh...while it's never a bad idea to consult a lawyer, simply referring to a trademarked name isn't breaking any laws or even commonly recognized rules or conventions. Take this site for instance.

Their thing is test preparations and they use the acronym in their name, URL and throughout their site because the service they offer pertains directly to the SAT. Where a trademark infringement occurs is when you use the trademarked symbol or name to try and fool people into thinking you ARE the folks who administer the SAT. It's kinda like how when people refer to the Stone Temple Pilots as "STP", the folks that make motor oil aren't getting all bent thinking this group is trying to subvert their engine lubrication product line.

SAT's been the abbreviation for Saturday for quite a long time...I wouldn't expect the test folk will be sending out cease and desist letters to calendar printers anytime soon.
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#6 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: Domain name trademark infringement?

Posted 23 April 2012 - 07:12 AM

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you could picture that my prospective site is to CollegeBoard as Napster was to the record industry

Really? Hmm... the greased wheels of speculation begin to grind. Are you going to have people voluntarily report questions they come across during the tests? Now that.. that might cause some problems with their property rights folks.
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#7 Craig328  Icon User is offline

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Re: Domain name trademark infringement?

Posted 23 April 2012 - 07:26 AM

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing when he tossed the Napster reference in. Much more concerning than any trademark infringement issue.

I imagine the SAT's questions themselves are copyrighted. That said, the mighty Google came back with this when I did a quick search: "Both the College Board (maker of the SAT) and the ACT release 3 tests annually (out of the 7 of each that are administered every year) to students who have taken the test and pay $18 to get a clean copy of the test booklet for the month they took the test".

That would mean that you acquire clean copies of old tests by purchasing them. If that's the case, you likely cannot legally copy those questions and re-publish them to the general public. You can resell each copy you buy one for one but making copies is likely a no-no whether you charge for them or not.

Unless you're concerned someone here might co-opt your idea for getting sued, why not describe a little more what your proposed site would be doing?
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#8 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: Domain name trademark infringement?

Posted 23 April 2012 - 07:30 AM

View PostCraig328, on 23 April 2012 - 08:09 AM, said:

Uh...while it's never a bad idea to consult a lawyer, simply referring to a trademarked name isn't breaking any laws or even commonly recognized rules or conventions. Take this site for instance.

[snip]



That's all reasonable to the point of obvious, but the OP implied strongly that this was a service which he was afraid would cause a problem. Point being: if you're afraid of legal ramifications, and you're a reasonably smart person, there's likely a good reason to consult a lawyer, if the legal ramifications are ones you would rather not endure.

Now, if it turns out that the OP is marketing something like that SAT prep service you cite, then yes, that would be taking caution a little further than necessary, but in the absence of more information, the best advice is always: see a lawyer. Especially so, if your product is something you don't want to describe in detail on line.
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#9 Craig328  Icon User is offline

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Re: Domain name trademark infringement?

Posted 23 April 2012 - 07:42 AM

Oh, I agree in that the issue the OP presents when placed next to my example is exceptionally obvious. But then again, the OP did express concerns about having the trademarked "SAT" in the name itself which, by way of example, I showed obviously isn't that big a deal.

Now, on another level he also said this:

Quote

it would take away from their profit in the way of practice material purchases (since my site would offer something similar for free)

...and in that I was saying that his issue is probably more properly a concern about copyrights rather than trademarked business product names and such.

As an additional suggestion: rather than copy, word for word, an actual SAT question, you could change the question enough so that it's NOT a direct quote but rather a question modeled on an actual question used on the test. There are SAT tutors and test prep folk by the thousands that use the original questions as well as similar questions "in the style of" questions used on the SAT. If you re-wrote or paraphrased that which you're considering offering for free, I think the College Board could get bent about it but they'd have a hard row to hoe in proving copyright infringement.

That doesn't mean they couldn't send a cease and desist letter and possibly filing suit anyway even if they have no real legal basis for doing so. As always, if your concern involves the law, your best bet is to consult a lawyer.
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#10 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: Domain name trademark infringement?

Posted 23 April 2012 - 07:57 AM

hm... so if you were able to take an English sentence and produce a reasonable paraphrase on the fly, copyright becomes a much trickier issue. Nice. Give the machine translation folks a few years, and a simple round trip translation might do the work. Not quite there yet today, I'm afraid.
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#11 Craig328  Icon User is offline

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Re: Domain name trademark infringement?

Posted 23 April 2012 - 08:11 AM

Long time back I wrote something like that. You have a dictionary of nouns and verbs, group them by like characteristics and do a simple find/replace.

"The dog ran into the house" can easily become "the raccoon hurried into the barn" and so forth. The trick back then was plurals (because English grammar rules have an asston of exceptions) but the app was to generate suggested paraphrases that were then reviewed by live folk.
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#12 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: Domain name trademark infringement?

Posted 23 April 2012 - 08:15 AM

I like using the existing functionality of the translation services. That way you don't have to worry about preserving semantics, which could be important for test-prep questions. Well, you do have to worry about it, but you don't have to fix it. :)
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#13 AVReidy  Icon User is offline

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Re: Domain name trademark infringement?

Posted 23 April 2012 - 04:09 PM

I'm just asking about trademarks; I have a pretty solid understanding of copyright law, and my site would be almost 100% legal (and in no way would it exploit any loopholes). Sorry if the whole Napster reference led you to believe I planned on putting CollegeBoard's copyrighted material online - that's not the case at all. Maybe a better way to put it is this: my site is to CollegeBoard as Linux is to Microsoft. In fact, there is an open source aspect to the site as well.

This post has been edited by AVReidy: 23 April 2012 - 04:10 PM

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#14 WolfCoder  Icon User is offline

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Re: Domain name trademark infringement?

Posted 23 April 2012 - 04:58 PM

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..my site is to CollegeBoard as Linux is to Microsoft. In fact, there is an open source aspect to the site as well.


I don't know if your {:: :} makes any sense. Your website is to the SATs as a leaky screwdriver is to a bushel of tangerines.

This post has been edited by WolfCoder: 23 April 2012 - 04:59 PM

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#15 Craig328  Icon User is offline

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Re: Domain name trademark infringement?

Posted 24 April 2012 - 06:27 AM

View PostWolfCoder, on 23 April 2012 - 07:58 PM, said:

I don't know if your {:: :} makes any sense. Your website is to the SATs as a leaky screwdriver is to a bushel of tangerines.


I'm not to proud to admit that I audibly snerked at reading that.
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