Yahoo Goes After Y.COM Trademark (Again)

On 12 January 2010, Yahoo applied for a trademark on Y.COM, a filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office reveals.

And this isn’t exactly the first time they’ve tried to secure that particular character mark: the company actually filed an initial application for Y.COM to the USPTO back in August 2005.

The only difference between both applications that I can tell is that the most recent one is a bit more limited in scope, as the ‘Goods & Services’ description in the application is for one specific category only, whereas in the 2005 application there were three.

In the new filing, Yahoo seems to focus more on its search business (or what’s left of it):

IC 042. US 100 101. G & S: Creating indexes of information, sites, and other resources available on computer networks for others; searching and retrieving information, sites, and other resources available on computer networks for others; computer services, namely, providing search engines for obtaining data on a global computer network; design, creation, hosting, and maintenance of websites for others; providing temporary use of online non-downloadable software for use in designing, creating, hosting, maintaining, and operating personal web pages; hosting computer software applications of others; providing customized online web pages featuring user-defined information, which includes search engines and online web links to other websites; domain name registration services for identification of users on a global computer network; online computer mapping services; mapping services, namely, providing a website and website links to geographic information, map images, and trip routing; computer services, namely, providing spam filtering, firewall, and parental control online filtering services; providing temporary use of online non-downloadable software in the field of employment information.

The irony is that even when Yahoo succeeds at securing the trademark, the domain name does not belong to the company and conceivably never will. The reason for that is that virtually all single-letter and single-digit .com domain names have been reserved by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) ever since the early nineties.

The only single-letter .com domains that are in use today were registered prior to the 1st of December 1993, when IANA moved to make them unavailable for registration. They are: (Qwest Communications), (PayPal) and (Nissan).

Back in 2005, when Yahoo first filed an application for the Y.COM trademark, an announcement was made that the reserved single-letter domain names might be put up for sale by ICANN after all, which is probably the reasoning behind the initial application in the first place. But as far as I can tell, there’s no indication that ICANN intends to move ahead with the auctioning of reserved single-letter domain names this year, so the question remains why Yahoo is going after the Y.COM trademark for the second time.

Note that the above doesn’t necessarily mean it makes zero sense for Yahoo to register Y.COM as a trademark. The company could simply be covering its bases in the event that the domain name should ever be available for registration in the future and someone else secures it before they can (or wins the auction). It’s also perfectly plausible that Yahoo has plans to use Y.COM as part of its branding campaigns without necessarily owning or using the domain name.

More background about the ‘single-letter trademark claim game’ can be found here.