A domain name is a distinctive sign that distinguishes the website with which a company offers its products and/or services.

What is a domain name?

It is the result of a strategic business choice: it is not accidental or casual, instead coinciding with the trademark and established directly by the specific user to identify their business online and be found by potential customers.

Domain name structure

A domain name originates from the union of three elements (example: www.domainname.it):
  • The prefix "www", typical of all websites (third-level domain);

  • The second-level domain (SLD), or its identifier, chosen by the user and with a distinctive function;

  • The top-level domain (TLD), i.e. the typical abbreviation after the period (.it/.net/.com) which:

  • On one hand, offers the possibility of choosing between an endless number of domain names online;

  • On the other, immediately informs users of the type of activity carried out by those who requested the domain's registration (.com /.net /.org) or the geographical area within which it was requested (.it /.uk /.de /.us).


Domain names therefore have two distinct functions which are closely connected:

A technical one, identifying it as an electronic address on the web, allowing users to access the corresponding website;

A legal one, which qualifies it as a distinctive sign of the company operating in the market, in order to draw consumer attention to access the specific website.

Therefore, if the domain name is used as a distinctive commercial sign, in order to protect and register it, it must meet the following requirements, typical of a trademarks :




Registering a domain name

Consequently, considering the growing digitalisation and progressive increase of commercial activities online, managing the assignment of different domain names depending on their registration has become necessary.
An international organisation is responsible for this task, ICANN - Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – which manages the assignment system and establishes the general registration criteria to be applied in individual countries.
In order to avoid assigning the same domain name more than once, the management is based on a system with two main principles:

So-called first come, first served', whereby the first to apply is the first to win the chosen domain;

The principle of domain name uniqueness, for which assigning two identical domain names is impossible.

Protecting a domain name

Depending on its characteristics, like other distinctive signs, a domain name is also subject to the rules:
  • Of the Intellectual Property Code – (Italian Legislative Decree no. 30/2005);

  • On unfair competition (Articles 2598-2601 of the Italian Civil Code)

and, in relation to the specific choice of name, to the regulations on the right to name (Articles 6-9 of the Italian Civil Code).

Likelihood of confusing the public

The application of the various provisions aims to protect domain names from a possible risk of confusion for the public with other signs similar or identical to a trademark of others or even, in particular, from a risk of association of the two signs (Article 12 of the Italian Intellectual Property Code and Article 22 of the Italian Intellectual Property Code).
Laying the foundation for effective protection of a domain name as well is therefore essential, precisely because like with other distinctive signs, it is liable to infringement of rights and unfair commercial practices.

Related Articles