A business name is one of your most important assets; along with your logo, it’s your public persona. As such, it’s important that you make sure to protect that good name against those who may try to misappropriate it for their own benefit. A trademark is a valuable tool to protect your brand, but there are necessary steps to secure that protection.
Trademark vs Registration
For those new to either starting a business or the field of intellectual property, it would be easy to think that registering your business name with the state is the same as filing for a trademark, or at least that it serves an equivalent purpose. The truth is that the two processes are completely different; registering your name with the state doesn’t provide you with a trademark on that name, nor does it assure you that you have the right to trademark that name on the federal level. If anything, many businesses make the mistake of choosing a name and registering with the state, and in some cases creating a website, only to find that the name is already trademarked.
If you’re interested in trademarking your business name (and you should be), it’s best to take a more holistic approach. Instead of charging ahead with a name you’ve fallen in love with, be sure to search both your Secretary of State’s database and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database, plus a general Google search, to make sure the name is available. It’s better to go with a second, third, or even fourth choice that you can trademark rather than potentially infringing on someone else’s name or having to start all over again after spending money on branding.
How to Trademark your Business Name
Once you’ve found a preferred business name and done the appropriate search as outlined above, you’ll need to file a trademark application. When you’re filing for a trademark, it’s important to note that you can trademark more than just the word or words that make up the name of your company.
Most of the brands we encounter have distinct fonts, designs, and/or color schemes associated with their name and logo, and if you have similar creative elements associated with your name, they can also be protected as a design mark. If you’re just looking to trademark the particular word or words of your business name, that is known as a character or word mark.
If you’ve determined what kind of trademark, you can start the online application and pay the necessary fee for a trademark application. Given the nature of the process, it can be complicated to fill out a trademark application on your own, and mistakes made can be costly (there are no changes only do-overs with additional filing fees), so it’s a good idea to work with a lawyer when going through the trademark application process. (More on that later.)
From there it’s a waiting game. Government agencies move slowly, and the USPTO deals with a tremendous number of applications each year, so it may take months before you hear about approval or rejection. There’s also a chance that the USPTO will come back seeking more information or asking you to make changes or corrections, so it’s important to keep tabs on your application to make sure you’re doing what’s needed.
Benefits of Trademarking Your Business Name
Discussing the trademark process may make it seem like more of a headache than it’s worth, but having a registered trademark on your business name is incredibly valuable. While you can gain a ‘common law trademark’ on your business name just from using it in commerce, that type of trademark can leave you at a disadvantage. If you should ever need to take legal action to stop someone from misappropriating your name or design, having the real registered mark puts you on more solid ground.
A registered trademark offers the ability to file suit in court for cases of infringement. It also allows you to hopefully prevent others from using your trademark, inadvertently or otherwise; registering your trademark allows you to use the registered trademark symbol ® on your website or other printed material, and your trademark will be in the USPTO database if others search for similar marks.
Let LegalShield Help with Your Trademark Application
Your trademark application is too important to make easily avoidable mistakes. Rather than trying to handle it on your own, become a LegalShield member and talk with a lawyer the same day about your trademarks or other intellectual property legal matters to make sure your applications are done correctly the first time. With plans for small businesses starting at $49 a month, you can get the help you need at a price you can afford.
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