A quick story that might be interesting to auto dealers who are using a manufacturer’s brand name in their website URL (like BlueSpringsFordParts.com).
Newford Parts Centre – located in Abbey Village (a town in the United Kingdom) – had been using the domain newfordparts.co.uk for a website that specialized in selling parts for older Ford vehicles (some of which went all the way back to the 1940s). This was a small business that would never be confused with anything officially associated with Ford Motor Company.
Yet Ford Motor Company (FMC) felt that this domain was trading on its brand name. Following the domain name dispute process outlined here, FMC complained that newfordparts.co.uk was unfairly leveraging the Ford brand, and could even cause consumer confusion.
As you may have guessed, Newford Parts Centre lost the fight, and Ford Motor Company won (see news coverage of this story here). The owner of Newford Parts Centre was quoted as saying:
“I’ve been using it for about 14 years and I’ve been trading for over 40 years…There’s absolutely no confusion whatsoever…It’s clear on the website that I’m not associated with them.”
Personally, I agree with the owner of Newford Parts Centre: FMC’s complaint about this domain name is obviously ridiculous. Still, the rules favor the trademark owner.
The Domain Name Lesson
If your domain name contains a manufacturer’s brand name, it’s vulnerable to being taken. While franchised auto dealers do have a legal right to use a brand name, most franchise agreements specify one single domain name only. (More about choosing a domain name in this article.)
Therefore, before you invest in a big online marketing campaign, it’s a good idea to make sure your domain name follows the rules set forth in your franchise agreement. Otherwise, Ford (or Toyota or Fiat or fill-in-the-name-of-an-auto-maker-here) will legally be able to take your domain from you whenever they feel like it.
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