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Trademark Law: Transferring a Brand or Domain Name

Home > Intellectual Property in France | Published 2015-07-07

A company consists of individuals who come together and unite their efforts, skills, expertise, and enthusiasm in order to generate a profit. It will generally invest a certain amount of money to develop an original product, different from those already available in the market. In this context, intellectual property rights are very important: a business’ investments must have returns and be profitable. In order to ensure this end, the unique, distinguishing features of the product must be legally protected. Where a company’s buildings, equipment, and stock might be difficult to steal, intellectual property rights, by contrast, are easily hijacked. This is why these rights, such as trademarks and domain names, are important assets to a company’s value.

Your brand: an asset worth protecting

A trademark is defined as a sign capable of graphic representation that allows consumers to identify and distinguish the product from competitors’ products. Trademarks are filed with the INPI for a period of ten years, which can be renewed indefinitely.

As a marketing tool, a trademark is as valuable an asset as material assets.

Your domain name: essential to your company’s identity in the age of the Internet

A domain name is a name followed by an extension (i.e.,, With the rise of the internet, domain names now have a certain “ownership” value. An internet presence is critical in a competitive market. The first party to apply for a certain domain name owns it unless it is already another party’s property.

A domain name, like a trademark, can be transferred through cessions or acquisitions, either as part of a larger business exchange or as its own transaction.

How to sell or acquire a brand

A brand can be transferred partially, that is to say, it is possible to contract operations of a mark for certain products and/or services. In this hypothetical situation, it would be of fundamental importance to write a brand transfer agreement with care and attention to detail. Poor writing exposes the parties to significant litigation. When the original brand owner and the contracted party use the brand at the same time, the limits and conditions of how each party uses the brand must be established precisely.

If a brand is contracted partially, it cannot be confined to a certain area. The contract automatically applies nationally, unlike a trademark license transfer, which can be limited locally.

To avoid unwanted surprises, the process of transferring a brand must be done with care. A lawyer can be invaluable at every part of the operation, from negotiations to drafting contracts and agreements. 

The stakes at hand warrant legal counsel from an experienced intellectual property lawyer.

Ceding or reclaiming a domain name requires vigilance

Just as conditions must be set for trademark transfers, it is the same when ceding or reclaiming a domain name.

A domain name can belong to a company if it registers it first. However, the company can also own a domain name after filing for a trademark that uses the domain name.

In the latter case, trademark cession law applies.

If ownership of a domain name is not as a result of filing for a trademark but simply by acquisition of the name, the owner must be particularly cautious.

It is important to ensure that the previous owner, the party ceding the domain name, indeed rightfully owns it. It is a good idea to check with the INPI and find out if the domain name does not already belong to a third party that has a similar brand.

These precautionary steps reduce the risk of litigation.

Therefore, whether you are ceding or reclaiming a trademark or domain name, an experienced intellectual property lawyer will help you avoid major pitfalls at every stage. Picovschi Lawyers will accompany you through the entire process.

This article is available online for public information purposes. It is updated regularly, as needed. Due to the constant evolution of the laws and the legal system, we cannot guarantee that the information in this article is still applicable. We invite you to contact us with any legal questions or concerns you have regarding this topic at +33 1 56 79 11 00. In no way can this firm be held liable for articles that contain inaccuracies or are now out of date.

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