Monday, January 14, 2008

First Boat Confusion

What's in a name?

I put a lot of thought into purchasing the web domain name "FirstBoat.com" back in 1999. In fact, I even purchased the alternate spelling "1stBoat.com" so that people wouldn't get confused (When I tell people the web address verbally, I'm often asked if FirstBoat spelled with a "1" or if "F-i-r-s-t" is spelled out, and I have the planned-luxury of simply answering, "either way will get you to the site").

That started to change a couple of years ago, when I received an email that was intended for somebody else. It was from a web developer who had just completed work for a website and was trying to send their client a test email. They sent it to me instead, and the reason for the confusion was clear: The client's web address was Firstboat.BIZ!

I figured the new .biz website would come and go like so many other nautical sites over the years, so I didn't pay much attention. However, last week we received an email from a potential client of Firstboat.BIZ who was confused - they contacted FirstBoat.com by mistake when they were trying to contact the .BIZ folks. And then today, I saw my site in the news! But it wasn't my site after all - it was the .BIZ folks using the name "First Boat" without the ".biz" at the end in the title of their press release, leaving readers confused about whether it was a release from the .Biz folks who make some sort of row boats, or from us - the original FirstBoat providing information to boaters since 1999.

Slightly different business models, but still both are in the boating industry. If the new .biz folks start trying to use the name "First Boat" without differentiating their name from us by saying ".biz" at the end, I think a lot of people will start to get confused and the brand that I've been building since 1999 will start to get diluted.

Just to be clear, here is the original FirstBoat.com which I started in 1999: www.FirstBoat.com

Here's the copy that we're not affiliated with: www.firstboat.biz

Your legal advice is welcome.