If your business depends upon your name, you should obtain a trademark for your name and register it as a domain name. Andre Agassi must be glad he did so. A judge in the United States District of Nevada recently issued a preliminary injunction banning three web sites from using Andre Agassi’s trademarked name in their web addresses.
The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (“the Act”) protects trademark owners against cybersquatters as well as providing protection against the unauthorized registration of personal names as domain names. This includes prohibiting the unauthorized registration of a domain name that is the same as or confusingly similar to the name of another living person, if done with intent to profit from the domain name by selling it for financial gain to such person or a third party.
Aside from the Act, there are common law rights to a personal name. Not surprisingly, a court found “Risky Business,” “Top Gun,” Oprah couch jumping superstar “Tom Cruise” to have common law rights in his name. However, Jerry Falwell did not fare so well. His name was found not to have common law rights. Similarly, the headline “Sting Stung Online” touted the first famous celebrity to suffer a defeat under the Act in 2000. Front man for the rock band the Police, and superstar solo act, Sting (also known as Gordon Sumner) was unable to prevail against Michael Urvan’s registration and use of Sting.com. under the Act. The World Intellectual Property Organization for Arbitration found that “Sting” was a common dictionary name and Mr. Urvan was not using the domain in bad faith. Significantly, Sting had not registered his name as a trademark.
If your name is your business, and you are not as famous as Tom Cruise, it might be best to register your name as a trademark and register the domain name, as Andre Agassi did.