Thanks for getting back to me on this.
I've outlined the key points, below, regarding trademarks and domain
names, and also provided a number of links to sites where you can find
Please be aware of the very important Google Answers disclaimer at the
bottom of this page: I am not a lawyer, and Google Answers is not a
substitute for professional legal advice. Although I am confident in
the quality of the information I've provided here, please take it all
with the appropriate numbers of grains of salt.
Also, I am writing chiefly from the point of view of a business in the
U.S. Trademark rules have come a long way over the past few decades
towards international harmonization, but there are still significant
differences among countries.
Lastly, before rating this answer, let me know if you need any
additional information. Just post a Request for Clarification, and
I'll be happy to assist you further.
Here's to you rapidly growing your online business....
Trademarks exist to provide protection to the names given to products
and services. Trademarks also protect consumers, in the sense that
they help answer the question "Who provides this product or service?"
Trademark protection is not absolute. For instance, you have not
violated trademark by mentioning a commercial name (Adobe) in your
question. However, as you name your own products or services, you
need to exercise care that the name you choose would not cause
confusion with other similarly-named products, or otherwise imply an
endorsement by another company.
Of course, what names might "cause confusion" or not is a fairly
subjective matter, which is why so many trademark disputes wind up
before the courts. However, here are a few guiding principles:
--Ordinary words generally receive a lesser level of protection than
do novel business names. For instance, words like Amazon and Apple --
though clearly recognizable as business names -- are also common
English words, and hence, not as easily protected as a made-up
business name. You would have a hard time justifying naming your
website Kodakhost.com or Buickhost.com, since the words Kodak and
Buick have only one meaning, as a well-known business name. However,
a name like amazonhost or adobehost is more readily justified.
However, as the terms become more and more identified with their
companies and products (e.g. "Coke" is a regular word, but has come to
be identified almost exclusively with Coca Cola), the greater their
degree of legal protection.
--The closeness of your business/product/service to that of an
established trademark is an important factor. If I were to open a
business called "AAA Auto Parts", then the Automobile Association of
America would have a legitimate complaint that consumers might become
confused. But if I open up the "AAA Laundromat", their complaint
would be far less convincing (check out the businesses named AAA in
your phone book if you want a real-world example here).
Though there are an awful lot of legal niceties in all of this, 90% of
trademark law comes down to common sense. Don't pick a name that a
reasonable person would confuse with another business, especially one
that is nationally well-known...to do so is asking for trouble. If
you feel that a reasonable consumer would NOT be very likely to
confuse your business with any other bearing the name Adobe, then you
are probably on pretty safe ground, unless you run into a domain name
bully...you'll see what I mean below.
The emergence of domain names has added a whole new layer to
intellectual property disputes. The same basic rules apply. But in
addition, there is an organization -- the Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN -- that can intervene to
arbitrate and settle domain name disputes.
A final thought. Even though calling yourself adobehost.com MAY turn
out to be perfectly legitimate and defensible, it pays to stop and ask
yourself: "Am I feeling lucky?"
Well...are you? Even if the law is on your side, if Adobe should
decide to pick a fight with you over the use of the term "adobe"...who
do you suppose has the "deeper pockets" in such a battle? You can
have right on your side, and still wind up the loser in a trademark
Here are some key links to articles and resources for additional
information, if you want to look into this in more detail:
Good, brief overview of trademarks, things to consider, and relation
to copyrights, etc -- includes a section on domain names.
Make Sure Your Proposed Business Name Is Available
Offers advice on how to choose a name for a small business without
causing trademark conflicts.
All About Trademarks
A ton of links and write-ups with additional details on trademarks,
should you really want to dive in deep.
Avoid Trademark Infringement When You Choose a Domain Name
Some good common-sense advice here on avoiding problems -- see,
especially the section on Domain Name Bullies at the bottom of the
Well...that about does it. Thanks for using Google Answers®
(couldn't resist that little ®)!
Again, let me know if you need any additional information...and all the best.