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Domain conflicts spawn trademark service

Online companies have been signing up for a service that enables users to screen potential domain name addresses for trademark infringement.

Internet companies have been signing up for a new service that enables users to screen potential domain name addresses for trademark infringement, according to year-old company that doesn't charge for its assistance.

Namestake.com, owned by intellectual property research firm Thomson & Thomson, has registered more than 97 Internet service providers, domain name registrars, and Web hosting services, the company announced today. Such businesses as Network Solutions, register.com, and Net Benefit have signed on in effort to protect their online branding, the company said.

Over the past few years, domain name disputes have become a hot legal topic, as courts have tried to discern what is the proper relationship between trademarks and Internet addresses. As the battle rages on--highlighted by recent skirmishes between Microsoft and two "cybersquatters" and Yahoo and a similarly named site promoting the use of marijuana--Namestake.com has begun guiding companies wishing to steer clear of such controversy.

"The number of companies partnering with namestake.com validates the notion that it is no longer acceptable to register a domain name without checking for infringement or similar names" already registered, Thomson & Thomson vice president Tom Barrett said in a statement. "Namestake.com makes it simple to perform this search online in a matter of seconds."

There is no charge for companies to participate in namestake.com's link network program. Instead, companies fill out an online application and put a namestake.com link on their Web site.

Recent rulings in federal court may give prospective holders of a particular domain incentive to check out trademark considerations before registering the name. Several cases have held that a trademark law passed by Congress in 1995 allows Internet sites to be shut down when they "diminish" a registered trademark.