If you want to build a business that people can rely on and recognize, you need a name that will make them feel confident that they'll get what they're looking for. Customers should be able to easily find you and be able to associate your brand with your name.
It can be hard to come up with a name that's memorable, unique, and legally available. Once you've settled on the perfect name for your company, you would not want the work you put into picking it to go to waste.
If you haven't considered protecting your business name as a trademark yet, this blog will give you the background you need to decide if doing so is important for your business.
What Is a Trademark?
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of a business from those of others. A trademark can be registered with the government to give the owner exclusive rights to use it in connection with their business.
Trademark vs. LLC and Other Company Registrations
Among the most common misconceptions about trademarks is that they are only useful to large, well-known companies, but this is not true. Trademark law provides the strongest protection for your brand’s intellectual property.
Many new business owners assume that once they register with their home state, that means they have done everything they need to do to protect their business name. However, registering your business is only the first step you can take to legitimize and protect your company.
While company registration such as incorporation, LLCs, and DBA filings prevent anyone else from using your name within your state's geographic area, it doesn’t offer the same protection elsewhere. This is why securing a trademark for your brand name is so important.
LLC or Trademark First?
If you intend to run your business only within your home state, you can prioritize company registration to secure your name in that area. You can leave the door open for expansion by filing for trademark registration.
If you have plans to grow your brand beyond your home state or run your business online, you will need to register your business name, logo, and other assets as trademarks. Depending on your target market, you can opt to register federally with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or globally with the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO). This will help you ensure that you have the exclusive right to use the name in every location you decide to expand into.
Are All Businesses Required to Trademark Their Name?
A common question among business owners is: Do I need to trademark my business name?
The short answer is no, trademarking your business name is not a legal requirement. However, it is the only way to secure legal ownership of your brand name and other creative assets.
Trademark protection works by restricting others from legally registering your business name as their own. Because trademark law provides recourse to litigate against infringement, a registered mark also deters competitors from using your name in damaging or defamatory ways.
If you use your name without registering it with a trademark office, you run the risk of it being stolen by others and of your brand infringing on another business's trademark. In both cases, you will have to spend time and money defending yourself against those who seek to take advantage of the situation—and in the end, you may be unable to continue using your business name.
Why Trademark Your Business Name?
There are several benefits to trademarking your business name and assets.
Registering a trademark protects your brand across the entire country and gives you the right to bring legal action against infringers in federal court. You can also prevent imports of goods bearing infringing marks under certain circumstances, and seize other infringing items, such as a pirated domain name.
If you successfully register your trademark, other business owners in the same field to avoid confusingly similar marks in the future. This makes it easier for consumers to recognize your brand and strengthening your ability to expand into new markets. Historically, a registered trademark has been seen as an assurance of quality and reliability to consumers.
A registered trademark protects your name for ten years, but with proper maintenance, your trademark can be extended indefinitely.
How Easy Is It to Apply for a Trademark?
Trademarking your business name is a big decision that should not be made lightly. You want to make sure you do it correctly so you end up with the protection you need.
The process of filing for a trademark can seem complicated, but it doesn't have to be. It begins with a free trademark search. If no one has already claimed your mark, then you are free to submit it for trademark registration.
Stages in the Trademark Registration Process
- Trademark Search
- Trademark Application
- Examination Period
- Publication in the Office's Trademark Bulletin
- Opposition Period
- Awarding of Trademark Registration Certificate
An online trademark application is the most convenient and affordable way to file your trademark. The whole process usually takes about 6 months to 2 years from start to finish, although many variables can affect this timeline. You can apply yourself without hiring outside help, or you can hire a trademark service to help guide you through the process.
While applying on your own may be less expensive, it's important not to skip any steps or overlook any of the information needed to complete your application properly. Doing so could cause delays in your application's approval or even cause it to be rejected altogether.
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late to Take Action
In the world of business, it's important to have a name that sticks. Whether you're looking to set yourself apart in a competitive industry, or just want to make sure you and your work are protected, it's worth it to consider trademarking your business name.