If you are taking steps to establish your new business, an important aspect of your business is, of course, the name of the business. Because the name of your business is incredibly important, you no doubt want to obtain as much legal protection of it as possible.
How to Trademark Your Business Name
An important thing for you to consider is getting trademark protection for your business name. This will ensure the greatest legal protection for your business’s name.
A trademark’s primary purpose is to prevent consumer confusion by ensuring two similar businesses do not operate under the same name or symbol
15 U.S.C. section 1127, the intellectual property law in the United States, defines trademark as:
any word, name, symbol, or design, or any combination thereof, used in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from those of another and to indicate the source of the goods.
What Is a Business Name?
Simply put, a business name is the name that identifies your business to the public. A business name can be trademarked but does not have to be trademarked. Moreover, more things than business names can be trademarked. Things like business logos and designs can also be trademarked.
Why Trademark Rights Are Important
Getting a trademark for your business name is typically a very good idea. Trademarks provide you with the greatest legal protection over your business name. Because your business’s name is such a vital component of developing the overall brand for your underlying business, it is a good idea to gain as much legal protection over it as possible.
Obtaining federal trademark registration for your business name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can provide you with increased legal protection over your business name. By obtaining federal trademark registration, you will have the legal rights to use that trademark in connection with your particular goods or services.
If a competitor infringes on your trademark — by using the same business name for example — as a trademark owner you would be able to seek legal action against the infringer to stop them from using the business name.
By obtaining a federal trademark with the USPTO, you will be able to file a legal action in a federal court. You will be able to obtain monetary damages for the harm that has been caused to your business because of the infringing use. Many times you will also be able to completely stop the infringer from using your business name by getting an injunction.
Why You May Choose Not to Trademark
Trademark registration can be incredibly important for your business and the associated brand recognition. However, there may be some reasons that you would choose not to trademark your business name.
First of all, trademark registration can be a time-consuming process. You need to conduct searches for similar trademarks, draft and submit your trademark application, and then work with the assigned USPTO attorney to answer any questions. This process can be time-consuming and difficult.
Moreover, trademark applications cost money. The actual applications range in amount depending on the underlying trademark you apply for. Moreover, it is typically a good idea to engage a trademark attorney to conduct trademark searches to ensure the greatest accuracy.
It’s also a good idea to have an attorney review the draft trademark application, and then interact with the USPTO attorney when responding to questions.
If obtaining a trademark registration for your business name isn’t that important to you, it may not make sense to spend the time and money to do so.
What Cannot Be Trademarked
When choosing the name for your business, it can be important to keep in mind the types of names that cannot be trademarked.
The most important thing is that your business name must be inherently distinctive. For a name to be inherently distinctive, it must be more than merely descriptive of your business’s product or services.
If your business name is too generic, it will not be approved by the USPTO. Whether something will be considered generic will depend on the type of goods or services. For example, you could not trademark the name “orange” in support of selling oranges.
However, a term could be generic as to one type of goods or services, but not as towards another. For example, the name “Apple” is generic as to describing the fruit, but is distinctive as to computer products.
Therefore, Apple was able to obtain a trademark for that term as it relates to their business and associated products.
Another type of business name that will not be able to be trademarked is an existing trademark for that business name within the same field or industry.
This means that if there is an existing trademark for a business name but it is within a completely separate industry than yours, you may still be able to get federal trademark registration for your business name.
Trademarking Your Business Name
If you do choose to trademark your business name, there are some steps to take in order to get a trademark from the USPTO.
Before you file a trademark application for your business name, you will want to spend some time searching through the USPTO’s database to make sure there are no other identical or similar business names.
The USPTO has a database called the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), which houses all trademark registrations and pending applications. The USPTO has published some tips for searching through their database. In general, it is a good idea to try out different variations of your business name to make sure you have as comprehensive results as possible.
Prepare and File Your Trademark Application
Next, you will want to create an account on uspto.gov and draft your trademark application using the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) forms.
You can choose between the TEAS regular or the TEAS plus form depending on whether you want to be able to write out the specific classification of goods or services associated with your business name, or if you can choose from a list of classifications. You will also need to properly classify your type of entity, whether you’re filing as an LLC, with a partner, or as an individual.
Once your application has been submitted, you will work with a USPTO attorney assigned to review your application and answer any questions that may be posed. Once any questions have been answered, and your trademark application is finalized, your trademark will be published in the Official Gazette.
So long as no one files any complaints against your trademark, the USPTO will issue you a trademark certificate of registration.