Your company’s name may be its most valuable asset—it informs people who you are and what you do.
One of your company’s most valuable assets is its name. It’s a sign for your reputation, and it’s how the rest of the world knows who you are. You’re not going to be thrilled if a rival begins utilising your name.
But what if you register your company’s name as a trademark? Will this deter other companies from utilising it?
The response is that a registered trademark gives you the exclusive right to use your company name in connection with the products and services specified in your registration, as well as the ability to enforce your trademark in federal court. Those are significant safeguards, but it is up to you to keep an eye out for illegal uses of your name and take action to stop them.
The decision to register a trademark for your business name is influenced by the geographic extent of your company, the sort of name you have, and if you have the time and resources to complete a trademark application.
What Exactly Is a Trademark?
A trademark is used to identify the source of products or services. Trademarks may be applied to business names, product names, logos, and labels. You get a trademark by utilising your mark in commerce—that is, when you do business. You may get further protection by registering a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The Benefits of Registering a Business Name as a Trademark
You have common law trademark protection if you utilise your brand but do not register it with the USPTO. You may be able to prevent others from utilising your mark, but only in your close vicinity. That may suffice for a tiny local firm, but it may not be much assistance if you have an Internet-based business with a countrywide reach.
When you register a trademark, you obtain various benefits:
You will be granted national trademark protection.
Your trademark ownership is recorded in the USPTO’s database, producing a public record of your ownership and the date you first used the trademark.
People who perform trademark searches will come across your trademark and may be less inclined to utilise it.
To enforce your trademark, you may bring a case in federal court.
Registration establishes a legal presumption that you own the trademark and are authorised to use it for the products and services specified in your trademark application. This will come in handy if you need to sue someone to enforce your trademark.
If you register your trademark in the United States, you may be able to register it in other countries as well.
The right to use the registered trademark sign, ®, is granted upon registration.
The multiple benefits of trademark registration have resulted in the registration of millions of trademarks with the USPTO.
Not all company names, however, are eligible for trademark registration.
What Kinds of Names Are Trademarkable?
The USPTO will only register company name trademarks if they are unique and unlikely to be mistaken with another property.
The simpler it is to trademark a name, the more unique it is.
“Coined” or made-up names, such as “Xerox,” are the simplest to trademark and enjoy the most protection. Names that employ existing terms in novel ways, such as “Apple” computers, are also effective trademarks.
Names that imply a product but do not describe it may also be trademarked. Examples include the “Greyhound” bus and “Goo Gone.”
The most difficult company names to trademark are those that are descriptive. Personal names, such as David Flintoff’s ice cream, geographical names, such as “California Pizza,” and product or service names, such as “Best Carpet Cleaning,” are examples of these. The USPTO will not register a trademark for a descriptive name unless you can additionally demonstrate that the term has been used so often that consumers have come to identify it with your product or service.
If your company name is confusingly similar to an existing trademark, the USPTO may refuse your registration. A name that is confusingly similar to the name of another firm that provides comparable goods or services may lead people to believe they are linked. Omega Hair Salon and O-Mayga Beauty Shop, for example, may be confusingly similar since their names seem similar and both companies provide beauty services. However, Omega Vehicle Wash is unlikely to generate misunderstanding since no one expects the same firm to do both hair care and car washes.
How to Register a Business Name as a Trademark
Before trying to register a trademark with the USPTO, do a trademark search utilising a trademark search service or the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System to see if anyone else has filed a comparable trademark for a similar category of products or services.
If you decide that your name is qualified for trademark registration, you may file an application for registration online. If you register your name as a standard character mark, your trademark company name will cover it in whatever typeface, colour, or style you select. You may also register your name as a special character mark, which shows your name in a certain colour, typeface, or design—however, your trademark will only cover the design you submit.
Other Methods to Protect Your Company’s Name
What if you are unable or unwilling to trademark a name? Your company’s name may still be protected by your state’s laws.
If you create a business entity, such as a corporation or limited liability company, your state will not permit the formation of another business organisation with the same name. If you do not organise a company corporation, you may still get similar protection by registering a trade name, sometimes known as a “DBA,” with your state.
If your company name is qualified for trademark protection, federal trademark registration is a very simple procedure that gives you the authority to assert your trademark throughout the country and may help dissuade others from using your name. Registering is particularly important if your company works in many states and you’re afraid that rivals may attempt to use your name.