In my previous post, I detailed some of the ways BrandBucket conflates domain names with brand names. In other words, they pretend they’re a marketplace for brand names when they’re really a marketplace for internet addresses.
As a branding expert, here is my response to this idea, which you’ll see a lot if you read the Communer blog:
Trademarks are brands. They are marks you use in trade to identify yourself to consumers. If you’re not buying trademark rights, then you’re not buying a brand name. You’re just buying an internet address. BrandBucket clearly disagrees.
Here’s what they have to say on their FAQ in response to the reasonable question, “Is a domain name from BrandBucket 100% unique?“
“In holding the .com, you immediately establish your business as the most official version of that name. It’s unlikely any serious business is going to use a brand name where the .com domain is already in use. Many companies believe that owning the matching .com version of a business name provides more protection for their brand than a trademark.”
Despite telling you that owning the .com “provides more protection for [your] brand than a trademark,” BrandBucket will not refund you if your domain name turns out to be completely unusable because somebody else legally owns the name, according to their refund policy.
BrandBucket has spent years figuring out how to convince visitors that if you buy a domain on BrandBucket, you will legally own the name. They even tell you that if you pay upfront, you’ll “own the name outright.”
As a trademark attorney I can tell you with near-100% certainty that you will never, ever own the name “UberCoding” outright.
You could argue that they just mean “own the [domain] name outright,” but you’d have to ignore all of their other deceptive marketing copy that implicitly and explicitly tells you that you’re buying a brand name and not just a domain.
In the hopes of preventing entrepreneurs from getting sued after dumping four figures on BrandBucket’s wares, here are three more domains for sale there that may come with a free trip to trademark jail.
CherryGarcia.com for $4,795
One of the big differences between buying a real brand name and buying a domain is that buying a famous brand name is great, while buying a famous domain is bad if you’re infringing on the trademark rights of a famous brand.
Buying the trademark rights to the name “Cherry Garcia” in connection with food products would be really valuable, because Ben and Jerry’s pays to license that name for their popular ice cream flavor of the same name from the heirs of Jerry Garcia, the famous musician from the legendary jam band The Grateful Dead.
Buying the domain CherryGarcia.com just means you’re at risk of being sued by a large ice cream company and the heirs of Jerry Garcia, whether that’s the Garcia estate or somebody who bought the rights to the Cherry Garcia name from it.
Despite BrandBucket’s assurances, the Cherry Garcia trademark owners own the Cherry Garcia name, not the person who bought CherryGarcia.com, which is just a web address.
Here’s how BrandBucket recommends you use this already-owned brand name:
“Cherry Garcia: A juicy name full of delicious opportunities. Possible uses: An agriculture brand. A dessert shop. A restaurant. A beverage brand.”
If you have a weird sense of humor, then maybe wasting $5,000 on a domain and getting sued by an ice cream company is a “delicious opportunity,” but most people would find such an experience unpalatable.
As a reminder, the point of trademark protection is to prevent consumer confusion about the source of two products. If your name and your products are similar enough to those sold under an existing trademark, consumers will think your products are sold by the existing trademark owner, or at least endorsed by them. This means you’re infringing on their trademark rights.
All four of the possible uses suggested by BrandBucket relate to food, unsurprisingly. All four of these uses are also legally untenable because people would confuse your brand with a famous ice cream flavor, giving Ben and Jerry’s a rock solid legal case against you for trademark infringement.
Even if you bought this domain and decided to use it for something less obvious like kids’ toys or marketing services, it’s such a distinctive and famous name that people would still assume you have some kind of deal with Ben and Jerry’s and/or the Garcia heirs. Ben and Jerry’s pays a licensing fee to use this name, despite Jerry Garcia having no connection to ice cream, so why would you get to use it with no penalty?
There’s really no winning with this name.
UberCoding.com for $2,115
Ah, yes, Uber. The software application so famous and successful that startups still describe their new products as “Uber for x.” Do you really think you can just add “Coding” to this multi-billion dollar company’s name and get away with it?
This is clearly a domain name that can only be used for tech purposes — “coding” is a tech word. BrandBucket agrees. Here are their suggested uses: “A coding program. A web developer. A software designer. A tech startup.” Law suit. Law suit. Law suit. Law suit. Just try launching a “tech startup” called Uber Coding and see how that goes.
I’ve had clients threatened by big tech companies like Uber and Lyft before, for less stupid cases than this. They won’t want to work out a licensing deal or a co-existence agreement. They’ll just pay their lawyers to hammer you until you abandon the name. And that’s in situations where they don’t have a slam dunk case.
In this situation, you’d really have virtually no chance of success. I’m a lawyer so I can say that. This is actual free legal advice that I’m giving to you:
Don’t try to start a company called Uber Coding, and don’t waste your money on UberCoding.com.
HealthApple.com for $3,695
Apple is the most valuable public company in the world. Apple is also a trademark bully and has threatened multiple clients of mine.
One of these clients created a superhero called “Apple-Man.” The Hollywood Reporter interviewed me about this legal battle, which is currently on hold because my client is in Ukraine, which is being invaded. But Apple’s attorneys do get points for being gracious enough to keep filing time extensions in the opposition proceeding while the war continues.
You may think of Apple as an electronics company, but they also operate in the health space. The Apple Watch has become very popular as a fitness and health tracking tool. This means HealthApple.com is not a viable domain name for you.
Apple even has an app called Health. The Wikipedia entry for it is called “Health (Apple)”, which is the same as the domain BrandBucket is trying to sell you. By now, you can probably take a good guess at BrandBucket’s suggested uses for HealthApple.com. They mostly relate to health.
Some of them relate to fruit too, but if you’re looking at BrandBucket domains, it’s probably not because you sell apples and want to call them “Health Apples.” Such a name would probably be too descriptive to register as a trademark anyway. You’re much better off using your surname or your region like other produce companies.
No, HealthApple.com is a domain name for something in the health space, like an app or a consulting company. But Apple isn’t going to let you use Apple in anything health-related.
Another client of mine, a nutrition consultant, wanted to use the name “Simple Apple Nutrition Coaching” for her business. It’s a very reasonable name for a wellness brand because apples are associated with good health. The USPTO approved our trademark application, but Apple opposed it and threatened my client, forcing her to give up on the name.
Is it my client’s fault that Steve Jobs was shortsighted enough to pick a very common word as the name for his business? No, but now Apple is big enough to correct this original naming sin by spending hundreds of millions on lawsuits and acquisitions.
Don’t commit your own original branding sin by paying thousands for HealthApple.com, only to be forced to rebrand a few months later.
Conclusion: Keep These Names Off Your Bucket List
I picked some of BrandBucket’s most obviously toxic domain listings to demonstrate that BrandBucket’s “brand names” are dangerous and unvetted. If they’re willing to sell such obvious timebombs, then none of their listings can be trusted.
But most of BrandBucket’s domains don’t have such obvious legal risks. These ones are arguably more dangerous because you may spend thousands on one of them only to get hit with a completely unexpected lawsuit three years later from a company with a name that doesn’t quite match yours, but is similar enough to warrant legal action.
The only safe way to buy a brand is to buy a registered trademark. If you ignore my advice and buy an unprotected domain on BrandBucket or any other so-called “brand marketplace,” the brand you pull out of that bucket may be infested with a hidden lawsuit or two.