Copyright & Patents/Copyright
I have a domain name that I would like to use as a product name. I did an online search a couple of years ago, and someone who lives in my state did apply for the name, and to be frank, I cannot remember if it was granted or denied, at this point.
My unskilled review of the documents made me believe that I could win the use of the name for myself. I do not have the money to pay a copyright attorney, so I thought that there might be a program of some sort that might be interested in using my case as a case study. I would like them to give me an opinion, and if they agreed with me, then I would pursue it, paying for it one step at a time, on my own.
Does my idea make sense, and if so, who might be interested in such a thing? Using me as a case study.
I am unaware of any type of program that would be interested in a case study. If there were, the lines would be quite long.
You raise a number of key legal issues.
Between competitors for a mark, the party that will prevail will be the party that first used the name on the product and is still using the name continuously on the product.
One threshold question is are you engaged in "interstate commerce"? If so, there is federal jurisdiction. If not, the state has jurisdiction. For example, if the product is T-shirts, and you live in Baltimore and sell shirts in D.C., that is interstate commerce.
Another key point is the mark is not for everything but only for the type of goods sold in commerce. There are 45 different classes of goods and services that can be registered in the U.S. Trademark Office. For a complete listing of these classes, see http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/notices/international.jsp
You have a number of options.
You should check and see if your competitor has a federal application or registration for the mark. You will need to go to TESS and search the name. If you find it, see what goods and services the registration is for.
If the competitor has only a state registration, that is much easier to circumvent.
However, I strongly suggest that you seek the advise of counsel before you invest too much time and energy promoting a mark that you may have no rights to.
Kee, I hope that this helps, and good luck!
My best regards,
--Gerald R. Black
Attorney and Counselor