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Domain Names that include Franchisor’s Name – OK?

subwayImagine this

You are a Subway franchisee and you are believe that you are being cheated by the franchisor over payments relating to the transfer of leases and equipment costs. So you set up a web site, SubwayUncovered.com to vent your frustration and tell the world of your experience. Subway, of course, will will try to protect its brand through the legal system. In this case, Subway is claiming trademark infringement from using the Subway name in a domain name. Trademark infringement complaints in these cases usually involve the claim that there is a strong likelihood of confusion in the reader’s mind that this may indeed be an official Subway property, and that confusion will dilute the brand’s goodwill. The final arbiter of domain names is usually the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), and the organization hasbeen permitting the use of trademarks in domain names when the site comments on the company. This Subway dispute happens to be taking place in the UK but the concepts are relevant in the US.

The operator of PayPalSucks.com has some great advice for those of you interested in this topic. It gives good advice on how to setup a protectable “complaint” site with the company’s name in the domain, and it illustrates the point with the actual letters from the attorneys on both sides of the PayPalSucks.com dispute (which he won).

About Ryan Knoll

Attorney and advisor with an interest in franchising. Feel free to email me comments and questions on the "Contact Us" page.

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