Row.com: From $30k to $30m; domain hits trademark wall at the USPTO

Row.com is an ultra-premium, three letter, dictionary .com domain registered in 1993.

Surprisingly, there are no web records of it as an active domain name before 2006, just a year before it was sold at Sedo for the sum of $30,000 dollars. Source: NameBio.

Since then, the domain has been used as a forward to StudentFreelance.com, which makes sense; its registrant is Michael Talei, founder of Student Freelance. Although WHOIS records show a variety of different company outfits in the years since the Sedo sale, Row.com is still in Mr. Talei’s possession.

The domain is listed at Afternic with an asking price of $30,000,000 dollars and although its registrant invites offers they have to match or exceed $10 million dollars. The latter is the price that the domain’s lander passes via the Escrow.com API to the domain escrow service, should you decide to buy directly.

Domains, brands and trademarks. Photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash

That being said, its registrant filed an application to register the matching mark, ROW.COM, with the USPTO; we covered that application last year.

Unfortunately, the current status of the application indicates the process has hit a wall, as a “letter of suspension” involves a potential conflict with another party’s pending trademark, U.S. Application Serial No. 79299493. That application involves the mark ROWS for the following services:

  • downloadable software for creating and sharing spreadsheets, data processing, database management, and the creation of web applications; downloadable electronic databases for featuring information for the creation of web applications
  • software as a service (SaaS) feature software for creating and sharing spreadsheets, data processing, database management, and the creation of web applications; rental of computer programs; rental of computer programs for featuring software tools for developing software, websites and web applications; computer software consultancy; software creation; software development

Although there is no final decision on the mark’s approval or refusal, it’s an interesting complication that shows how exact match domains may face challenges when the keyword itself (without the TLD) might create a conflict with existing trademarks.

Applying for the registration of matching marks is an ongoing trend among owners of generic domain names, following the decision by SCOTUS on the Booking.com trademark application.

Since then, dozens of generic domain names have been applied to be registered as trademarks, inclusive of the TLD.

As of January 5th, 2021, BOOKING.COM is a registered trademark with the USPTO.

Will these applications become the new norm? Watch this video from NamesCon Online 2020.

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