What About Trademarks in Domain Names and E-mail Addresses?

Before you incorporate “REALTOR” into your E-mail user or domain name, read this.

October 1, 1998

Dear Mr. Internet:
I'm thinking about getting a domain name that has the word REALTOR® in it. Since I'm a REALTOR®, is that OK?—Mollie Wasserman, RE/MAX Executive, Boston

Dear Mollie,
Who wouldn't want one of the most recognizable trademarks in business as part of their Internet identity!

And that’s the rub. It’s a registered trademark of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, and NAR is very particular about how it’s used.

Whether you use “REALTOR” within your E-mail user name (the part before the “@”) or within your domain name, NAR has specific rules.

First, you have to be an NAR member.

Second, you can’t use “REALTOR” with descriptive words or phrases, since it implies that the word refers to your job rather than your membership status. Unacceptable uses include boston-REALTOR.com and topREALTOR@bestagent.com.

You may use “REALTOR” within your name or the name of your company, but you must use some kind of punctuation to separate it from the rest of the user or domain name, for example, molly-REALTOR.com or jane*REALTOR@goodproperties.com.

Keep in mind that although E-mail user names can include almost any kind of punctuation, domain names can use only a hyphen: “-”. That rule is not from NAR but from Network Solutions Inc. (networksolutions.com), the people in charge of registering domain names.

You may see others using “REALTOR” inappropriately online and wonder why you should worry about it. NAR is working with those people to correct their use of the term. Would you want to build your online identity around a domain name that you might not be able to use in the future?

Choosing the right domain name is an important step toward online success. Ideally, you want one that’s easy to remember and says something about what you do. And, of course, it should be one that no one can take away from you, ever.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.

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