What shouldI do if I was sent an infringement letter from a website domain’s owner requesting me to abandon my domain name as they sounded similar?

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What shouldI do if I was sent an infringement letter from a website domain’s owner requesting me to abandon my domain name as they sounded similar?

The domains are similar but do not sound the same. Our business, although similar, are not the same – they offer web design and develop applications. My solution is specific to providing an e-commerce solution for website owners. They are saying that our domain name is likely to lead the public to believe that its products and/or services are licensed by, sponsored by, or otherwise affiliated with their domain.

Asked on February 14, 2012 under Business Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Unfair competition (such as under the Lanham Act) is committed when business B puts itself forward or represents itself in such a way that is "confusingly similar" to business A and could lead to customer confusion. Violation of a trademark occurs when one uses a mark or name confusingly similar to an established mark, again with the capacity to mislead consumers as to the source of goods or services.

Whether or not these intellectual property violations or infringements occur is a very fact specific issue. The mere fact that you have received a cease and desist or infringement letter does not, by itself, mean that you did infringe--the other side could obviously be wrong. The letter itself also has no legal effect--you are not precluded from using your name, etc. until and unless there is a court judgment against you.

You should discuss the matter in detail with experienced intellectual property counsel: the lawyer can provide an experienced, knowledgeable, and emotionally detached opinion as to whether you jmay be infringing, what your possible liabilities are, the costs you could incur if the other side elects to sue you (even if you win), etc.--you can then put that information together with your knowledge of the value of your goodwill, website, brand, etc. and decide on what to do.


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