Business Name Registration Or Trademark: Which Is Best?

Key to brand cloud shape

One of the most valuable assets your business will ever have is its name. Your business name is more than what your company is called—it represents your brand’s identity and it’s a way for you to distinguish yourself from your competition. With your business name carrying that much weight, it makes sense to protect it.

As you start your business, consider these two approaches to prevent other companies from using your name and confusing your customers:

Business Name Registration 

If you form an LLC or apply to incorporate a business in a state, your business name is automatically protected in that state after the state has approved your application. No other LLC or corporation will have the right to register their company under that name within the state. Just how different a name must be from another business name varies from one state to the next. For instance, one state may deem it perfectly fine to register “Linda’s Spa and Salon, LLC” when there’s an existing business registered as “Lynda’s Spa and Salon, LLC.” Another state might consider the name “Linda’s Spa and Salon” deceptively similar to the other business’s name.

Note that there are some limitations to state protection. Sole proprietorships and partnerships in that state can still use your name if they so desire; they just wouldn’t be able to form a corporation or LLC using your name. Also, just because you register your business name with the state doesn’t mean a business in another state can’t use the same name. In fact, they could even incorporate or form an LLC using your name, provided they do it in a state or states other than those where you’ve registered your name.

To decide if brand protection at the state level will be enough, I suggest you consider your type of business and business model. If you are opening a local retail store or restaurant, for example, it might not matter to you if another business uses the same name in a different state. How likely would customers be to confuse the two? Probably not at all.

On the other hand, if you have ideas of expanding your business nationally, or are planning to sell your products/services across the country, or have concerns that a partnership or sole proprietorship might use your name, then you might consider protecting your name with a federal trademark.

Federal Trademark Protection

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants trademarks, which identify the source of products or services. A trademark can be a word, phrase, design, or symbol (or a combination of any of them) that distinguishes a company from its competitors. The USPTO can grant trademarks on distinctive names, logos, and slogans. As the owner of a trademark, you have exclusive rights to the mark. No one else may use it at either the state or federal level.

Expect to pay a little more for a trademark than you would for registering your name with the state. The base rate is $325 per class and it will cost more if you hire a professional to prepare the paperwork for you. It may take from six to 12 months for the USPTO to process your request. Although the process is more involved than registering a business name with the state, a trademark provides you with exclusive rights to your name in all 50 states—and trademarks have an unlimited lifespan, provided you comply with renewal requirements.

If you’re thinking about filing for a trademark, I suggest you do some initial homework so you don’t apply for a name that’s already in use. Don’t risk having your application rejected and losing the application fee you submitted.

First step: Conduct a free basic search to see if anyone has a pending application with the USPTO for your proposed trademark or anything similar to it.

Second step: Do a comprehensive name search to see if anyone is using your proposed name at the state or local level.

Isn’t Your Brand Worth Protecting?

Whether your business will have sufficient protection by registering your name with the state or you’ll require exclusive rights in every state, your business name and the brand it represents is worth securing. Consider talking with a legal expert who can help you decide which option is best for your business. And if the paperwork and process of registering your business name or filing for a trademark intimidates you, remember that CorpNet is here to help. Call anytime for a free business consultation at 888.449.2638!

Image: Adobe Stock

Back to the Basics: Why Trademarks are Important for Your Business

Trademark applicationNow that you’ve started your business, it’s time to protect your new business name, both in the state where you do business as well as every other state in the US. How can you do that? A trademark is a great place to start.

Why Registering Your Business Name Isn’t Enough

But Nellie, you say, I already registered my business name. Isn’t that protection enough?

Actually…no. Registering your business’ name in your state ensures that no other LLC or corporation uses it, but that does not put a shield around your name in any other state. So if you register T-Shirts Extravaganza in the state of Utah, another T-Shirts Extravaganza could register its business name in Texas. Or Delaware. You get the idea. Once that happens, if you both sell online, you’ll be competing in search engine results, and people may confuse your brands.

While you’re at it, consider trademarking your business logo too. This keeps any other company from using a logo that is too similar to your own that might be confused with yours. Continue reading “Back to the Basics: Why Trademarks are Important for Your Business” »

By | February 2nd, 2016|Trademarks|0 Comments

What Every Content Producer Needs to Know About IP Protection

1019_4240500*Join Nellie Akalp at NMX Monday, April 13th speaking on IP Protection for content creators! This post is a preview of her session!*

You’ve worked hard to write a fantabulous blog post or create an animation. Then you see someone else trying to pass it off as their own elsewhere on the web! There’s nothing more frustrating. You can send a cease and desist letter to ask them to take down the plagiarized content, but that’s a big ole pain in the you-know-what.

Instead, take precautionary measures to prevent that situation in the first place. Did you realize there are measures you can take to secure your content, be it typed, drawn, or recorded? Here we’ll look at three types of Intellectual Property protection.

Copyright for Your Writing

You can copyright anything you create, whether that’s a blog post, photo, podcast, or web copy. Doing so ensures that no one else tries to use your creation; if they do, there are serious legal penalties. Simply by creating your content, you have the right to claim copyright over it. But going one step further can provide an additional layer of protection. Continue reading “What Every Content Producer Needs to Know About IP Protection” »

By | April 9th, 2015|Legal Tips For Small Businesses, Trademarks|0 Comments

The Difference Between a Trademark and a Copyright

1019_4569484If you’re interested in protecting your intellectual property, you’ve probably come across information on trademarks and copyrights, but maybe aren’t sure which you need. This post will break them down to help you make the right decision for your needs.

What is a Trademark?

You use a trademark on a product, word, name, phrase, or symbol you want to have exclusive rights to. There’s also what’s called a servicemark, which is used to trademark a service rather than a product. You can even trademark your domain names and social media usernames.

When you have a product or name that you don’t want others to use, you can trademark it. Now, others can’t copy your efforts, and if they do, there will be fines and penalties to deal with. Continue reading “The Difference Between a Trademark and a Copyright” »

By | March 18th, 2015|Trademarks|0 Comments

Trademarking a Business Name: Do You Need To?

1019_4233250I get asked a lot: does incorporating my business automatically trademark it? The fact is: being incorporated keeps anyone else in your state from using the name, but it doesn’t protect that name in the other 49 states. For that, you need a federal trademark.

First, What Is a Trademark?

You can consider a trademark any word, phrase, symbol, or design (or a combination of these) that identifies the source of a product or service and distinguishes it from competitors.

You can trademark your business name, logo, or slogan, as well as domain name (some of them, anyway) and social media usernames.

Why Trademarking Your Business Name is Worth Considering

If it’s important that you’re the only business with your name in the entire country, such as if you own a franchise in many states, or do business across borders and want to be unique, registering for US Federal Trademark protection is the best way to protect your name. Continue reading “Trademarking a Business Name: Do You Need To?” »

By | February 23rd, 2015|Trademarks|0 Comments

Don’t forget to Trademark the ‘us’

609_3487910As women in business specifically (but not limited to), we continuously struggle with balance.  Just the faint mention of the word, balance, gives me the creeps because I know that it is rarely achieved.  Rather each day and week brings with it a new set of priorities and tasks which seem to dictate whether I am going to be a better mom or business woman or vice-versa on any given day.

In the balancing act, I always hear a lot of chatter about time for work, quantity vs quality arguments on raising children, and where to sneak in ‘me’ time, but the one detail that usually is skipped over is ‘us’ time.  By ‘us’ time, I mean time with your partner, husband, or significant other.  It is so easy to slide into a routine that focuses on  being successful as a mom and a woman in business while letting your relationship with the most special person in your life wait in the wings.

I often hear the ‘us’ part of a family referred to like retirement with comments similar to ‘When the kids go to college….’ and ‘One day we will take up this or that together.’  With only 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we often place the people who mean the most to us on standby.  Well, as if you did not already have enough to balance like what is for dinner tonight and your 7:00 a.m. meeting tomorrow that conflicts with camp drop-off, I am making an argument to put the ‘us’ back in ‘us.’

I started this week with a to-do list that realistically could be accomplished in a month.  At the top of the list was finalizing the details on filing for TM on my brand, BacknGrooveMom.  Following a in-depth search, I have the green light to claim my brand name.  Nellie and her team graciously helped with identifying the steps in this process, and I am all set.  EXCEPT now I also want to Trademark (TM) my new and improved typemark.  What’s the problem? Continue reading “Don’t forget to Trademark the ‘us’” »

By | July 25th, 2012|Running A Small Business, Trademarks|2 Comments