Injecting a Trademark Perspective to Brandable DomainsMike Sullivan
Daniel from Veribook gave me so great perspective on the process used to select the company’s domain name. With some trademark background, I felt the perspective was very informative and beneficial. Generics are my favorite, but this interview was quite helpful in understanding the brandable aspect of domain selection.
Mike: Can you tell me a bit about you and your company?
Daniel: Veribook is a free web application that lets individuals and businesses easily accept online bookings. My partner and I began developing Veribook several years ago as a hobby, but after a couple years, we decided to launch and convert the site into a for-profit business. I have a background as a professional software developer, whereas my partner has a background in intellectual property law and mathematics.
Mike: What made you decide to choose a brandable domain? Had you considered purchasing a premium generic domain?
Daniel: We selected a brandable domain name on the basis that we believe, in general, a distinctive, as opposed to a descriptive, trade-mark is the preferred approach for developing a long-term brand. While oftentimes businesses will adopt descriptive (i.e. generic) domains and trade-marks so that customers initially know what they offer, we personally believe there are significant drawbacks. For example, should competitors begin to infringe our trade-mark, or otherwise attempt to pass-off their goods and/or services as ours, it is much more difficult to defend a descriptive trade-mark. Similarly, a distinctive trade-mark is generally much easier to register in most, if not all, jurisdictions around the world. To therefore ensure a large zone of exclusivity for our business and our name, we decided upon a brandable domain name and did not seriously consider a premium generic domain.
Mike: Talk about the process you went through to select your domain name. What do the syllables of the name represent?
Daniel: We invested many hours reviewing potential domain names searching for dot com domains there were not already registered. We created manually and algorithmically lists of literally thousands of potential names including a wide variety of fanciful, arbitrary, and suggestive names. These lists were subsequently run through online search tools to identify domains currently available for registration. Our short list of available domains was eventually presented to a focus group of several dozen friends, family, and acquaintances around the world to choose our ultimate name of Veribook. It’s not entirely clear that our name means anything in particular, although there is obviously some nexus between “bookings” and the “book” portion of our name. Similarly, it has been suggested that “veri” is related to the latin word for truth, and consequently, one plausible interpretation of our name is that we offer “accurate bookings”.
Mike: You mentioned that you have a background in trademark law. How did you find that helpful in selecting your company and domain name?
Daniel: My partner’s background in trademark law was helpful both at the initial stages, when we were evaluating the type of trade-mark to adopt, but more importantly, his background was particularly pertinent when we needed to evaluate our potential liability vis-à-vis a separate, unrelated company, “Veribooks”. They had registered the domain name veribooks.com, and were operating as Veribooks, and we needed to seriously consider whether we believed our use of Veribook would infringe their rights.
Mike: What means have you used to market your brandable name and website?
Daniel: Networking events, social media, and word of mouth are our current modus operandi for marketing Veribook. We launched only a couple months ago, and we’re still in the midst of assessing which potential classes of users are most apt to adopt us.
Mike: Is the name catching on and having the effect you had hoped for?
Daniel: One issue that we face is that that we hadn’t strongly considered how the word Veribook sounds when spoken aloud. We’ve had some difficulty with people not knowing how to spell it, unfortunately. Beyond that, we’ve incorporated Veribook into our brand identity and we find Veribook has a high level of mental retention and recall among potential users who have been exposed once or twice to the name.
Mike: With your experience in business and trademark law, what advice do you have for others selecting a domain name for their company?
Daniel: It’s important to understand the fundamental purpose of trademarks, that is, trademarks serve to distinguish ones wares and services from those of their competitors, and more generally, to act as a mental “shortcut” to help customers remember a company or product. Consequently, a trademark should operate as a mental trigger for the goodwill that will ultimately accrue to a business. In my view, to the extent someone intends to adopt a domain name that will also be their business name and primary trademark, it’s important to ensure the domain name is at least somewhat distinctive, and not merely a description of the wares and/or services that they offer.