Those who have started a new business know how much time and creative energy one can spend on picking just the right name for the business. Then, it is fundamental to ask How can I protect the name of my business?
Your business name is one of the most important assets you have because it is what consumers and potential clients will use to remember you, your product, or your services. That said, it is important to clarify that your business name is not the same that your trademark, which is another intangible asset you need to protect.
The business name and the trademark might be the same, but not necessarily. However, both are equally important. The name of your business is usually protected by the registration of your business entity and the filing of a reservation of name petition before the secretary of state. If you are doing business solo, without an entity, you may register your business name as well.
If the name of your business and your trademark are the same, then this is what you can do to protect it.
Perform a trademark search
A federal trademark is one of the most effective ways to protect your trademark and is the first place you should start. This process begins with a trademark search, which allows you to determine if there are existing trademarks that may conflict with yours. When thinking about conflicts, the goal is to identify trademarks that are identical or substantially similar to the one you wish to own.
A trademark search may seem like an unusual place to begin to protect your business name. However, this search is one of the best ways for you to learn what possible conflicts exist and what names or logos are the most common in the marketplace. If you don’t perform a trademark search, you may lose money. Without this step, investments made in other protective measures may result insufficient.
Apply for your trademark
If you have done your homework and determined that the name you want is available, a trademark attorney can assist you with drafting and filing a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. You may file for the name’s registration before or after use starts. What is important is not to delay registration after use started. You may file an intent to use application or use in commerce application.
Additionally, keep in mind that waiting too long to file an application after the search is performed can alter the results.
Once you file for a trademark before the USPTO your rights are protected, and upon registration, you may prevent others from using your business name or any name that is highly similar and may cause consumer confusion. Many litigation matters, domain disputes, or third-party uses of a trademark may be swiftly and favorably resolved thanks to the ownership of trademark registration.
Finally, a trademark registration act as a deterrent and will often prevent others from filing for the registration of a similar mark. A trademark registration put the world on notice that a mark is in use and someone owns it.
Register your business name
As I said before, you may protect the name of your business by filing a Doing Business As form or by completing the registration of your business entity. Even if you have already filed for trademark registration it is wise to conduct an entity name search. This preliminary search will give you a good idea of your name’s uniqueness. Once you have made certain that your intended business name is available, you can move forward with establishing your business entity.
Most state filing agencies do not permit identical or substantially similar business names to be registered, the goal is to avoid confusion among the public. When doing a search, make sure you search for different variations or misspellings of your selected business name. This is important to determine if any other entities could be possibly mistaken for yours.
Find a domain
Nowadays a business is invisible if it does not have an online presence. Although social media pages and publications are important, you can’t underestimate the value of having an independent domain name, which acts as the identifier for the company’s website.
The website is the face of your online presence which will inform consumers and potential clients who are you, what is your business about, what is your value proposition, and what you do, among others.
There are several online domain searches engines that can help you determine what domains are available to you and what others may pose an issue for your branding. These searches are crucial in avoiding domain disputes down the road.
Performing a search and registering your domain name is as important as the registration before the USPTO or the Secretary of State. It is never too early to start looking online at what options are available, and domain registration can be done even before your website is up and running. Finding and registering the name of your business as a domain provides a direct line from your customers to your offerings.
Finally, having the bundle protection of a trademark registration and a domain name can act as a strong safeguard against cybersquatting, which occurs when another party takes a domain name similar to yours and attempts to profit off of the goodwill you’ve created within your business’s name, your trademark, and your brand.
Overall, when looking to protect the business name that acts as a symbol of your company, its reputation, and the goodwill that you have built, it is crucial to take several approaches to the matter, one strategy alone may not be enough. Make sure that your business is protected locally, within your region, and beyond your state’s borders by performing a trademark search, filing a federal trademark application, registering your business name before the secretary of state, and purchasing a domain. If you are ready to start protecting your business’s name, please reach out to an attorney at G.A.M. Law Office P.C. to begin today.