Coming up with a business name can be quite a task. Imagine doing all the work and coming up with a catchy business name only to have someone steal and trademark it. While stealing a business name is unethical, it happens, denying the rightful owners the brands they worked so hard to build. In this article, we’ll cover the steps on how to trademark a company name so you can avoid this unfortunate situation.
How to register a trademark for a company name
- Go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Web site: uspto.gov.
- Make sure nobody else has already registered the same business name you want to trademark by searching the Trademark Electronic Search System database.
- Fill the application online. It will take you less than 90 minutes (to access the application, first you’ll be required to sign in USPTO).
- Provide the required information: categories of goods and services your business sells, the date of your business name first use, and other details.
If you operate a business online, don’t register your web extension (such as .com or .net) when trademarking your business name. Getting a trademark without the domain extension will help prevent other businesses from registering the same name by just adding a different extension.
- Pay the required fee: online trademark registration costs between $275 and $325.
- Receive a response to your application within six months of filing.
We’ll cover these steps in detail in the sections below.
Why You Should Trademark Your Business Name
If someone steals your name, you can opt to take the issue to the courts and fight for your brand. Just like any other legal battle, the process will be tedious not to mention expensive. The other option you have is to rebrand and change your business name. This too comes at a cost.
So, how do you ensure that no one ever uses your name? Simple, just learn how to trademark a company name. The trademarking process is quite straightforward, and if you have all the right documents, it can be completed in one hour or less.
Trademarking your business name gives you the exclusive right to use it. If others start using your name, you can file a lawsuit against them in a federal court. Aside from making it easy for you to protect your brand, there are other benefits of trademarking your business.
- Firstly, your trademark can act as your security when you are getting a loan. If you are a sole proprietor, you will need to have a business account (under your business name) to secure a loan. Even though the business name does not have to be trademarked, you will have an easier time negotiating for a loan if your business name is not being used by anyone else.
- A registered trademark can be licensed and transferred with relative ease. It can also be used in obtaining business registration in some countries. This can only mean that protecting your brand in other parts of the world becomes easy and this is particularly important if you see your business going international in the future.
Now that you know the benefits of trademarking your business, you need to know how to trademark a business name and ensure that you are successful.
How to Trademark a Company Name? Step-by-Step Guide
1. Come up with a business name
Your first course of action should be to come up with a business name. This applies in case you do not have a name already or you are looking to change your name to one that best reflects your business. Since your patent will pretty much represent your brand, you need to be careful to come up with a catchy, attractive yet practical name. Need inspiration? You can read this article for tips on how to create a business name.
2. Search for your business name
Your next step should be ensuring that your business name has not already been registered as a trademark. To complete the search, go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark website and check the system database for any similar names.
3. File a trademark registration application
The process is quite straightforward and can be completed online. You also do not need a lawyer to complete and submit your application.
The easiest way to complete your trademark application is to use the U.S. Patent and Trademark website. The online registration will cost you anything from $275-$375 for every class of goods and services. The cost varies depending on the type of business (like a corporation or sole proprietorship) and level of protection (federal or state protection level).
When completing your application, all that you will be required to do is to state categories of products the mark will be used for and make it clear whether the mark also comes with a design component.
One thing to be careful about in this stage is adding your domain extension to your trademark. If your trademark doesn’t include the domain, anyone else can use the name and simply change the extension to trademark it as their own.
You should get feedback from the Patent and Trademark office in about 6 months after completing your application. Depending on the response you get, you can use your trade name in commerce or be forced to go back to the drawing board.
Most of the time, the applications that are rejected are not filled in properly, or the applicants fail to do their search and submit names that already in use. To save on time among other resources, take your time to search for your business name and complete your applications. This way, your application will be approved, and you can start using your trademark immediately.
Once your trademark is approved, the name will be published by the Patent and Trademark Office. From this stage, all you need to do is renew the trade name as required. You can also go a step further and use the designations “R” (registered) or “TM” (trademark) after your trade name to notify others that the name is your intellectual property. In case you notice someone using your trade name, simply send the person a cease-and-desist letter and take appropriate legal action.
5. Be aware of the trademark name restrictions
Trademarks are simply designed to prevent consumer confusion by distinguishing a specific business’s products and services from those offered by competitors. The general rule as far as trademarks are concerned is that you should not use a name that is being used in a similar field as yours. There is no harm in using a similar name if the businesses are unrelated and the type of business is also specified in the trademark, like in the case of Delta Airlines and Delta Petroleum Company.
For a name to be trademarked, it must fulfill the following requirements:
- Must be distinctive
- Not generic or descriptive
- Not similar to another company offering similar products
Currently, thanks to the anti-dilution law, an owner of a famous trademark can prevent you from using the trademark even if your products are unrelated to the products offered by the trademark. For example, you may be prevented from naming your business McDonald’s Electronics or Kodak blog because these two are famous trademarks.
How do I trademark a name for free?
Unfortunately, you can’t register a trademark for free. However, you can establish something known as a “common law trademark” for free, simply by opening for business.
A common law trademark is a type of infringement protection for intellectual property wherein the property is used in commerce before it’s federally registered.
How to Trademark a Business Name with LegalZoom
LegalZoom offers you an alternative when it comes to completing your trademark application. LegalZoom requires you to fill a simple questionnaire and wait as the LegalZoom team does all the hard work for you. If you are too busy to complete the trademark application or you are not so confident about it, you can always let LegalZoom complete the application for you.
There are many advantages to using LegalZoom. These include:
- Simple registration process
- Simple yet intuitive software
- Lower costs when compared to the costs of hiring an attorney
In short, LegalZoom offers a simpler way of completing and submitting a trademark application. This, without a doubt, comes at a cost but the cost is considerably low and ideal for business owners who find the costs of hiring an attorney restrictive.
What’s the Difference Between Registering a Trademark and Registering a Business?
Registering a business means to obtain a DBA (“Doing Business As”) that distinguishes the business from its owner or owners. The DBA must be registered for legal, marketing and promotion purposes. A trademark, on the other hand, is used to brand a business. The business uses the trademark to set itself apart from other businesses dealing in similar products.
It is possible to have a trademark that is similar to the DBA, but the fact remains that the two are registered for different purposes. The registration processes are also different. For example, a trademark must specify the classes of goods and services that it is used for while this is not a requirement in the case of a DBA.
Registering a trademark is not a must, but it sure is prudent. An unregistered trademark can only be protected by the general law. Registering a DBA is also highly recommended when you want to do business with a name different from your birth name.
- Do I need to trademark my business name? While it’s not mandatory by law, it’s highly advisable. A trademark gives you the exclusive right to use your business name nationwide in connection with the goods and services you’ve identified in your registration and allows you to file a lawsuit in federal court if you spot a business that is using your trademark name.
- How much does it cost to trademark a name? Between $225 and $600, plus legal fees, with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. You can also register for $50-$150 if you don’t want protection outside your state.
- Are company names trademarked or copyrighted? Usually only trademarked, but copyrighting your name is also recommendable. A trademark protects items that define and identify a company’s brand, such as the name and logo, while copyright protects literary and artistic works. Depending on the nature of the products you are selling or the services you are providing, you should consider both.
- What does it cost to trademark a logo? Same as a name: $225–$600, and only in your state, $50-$150.
Now that you know how to trademark a business name, you’ll have also realized that trademarking your business name is a wise move, more so if you see your business grow beyond your borders over time. If you want to safeguard your brand and avoid unnecessary legal battles, all you need to do is to trademark your business name. It helps that the process is straightforward and the cost is nothing compared to the benefits that trademarking comes with. Have you learned how to trademark a business name? Take the initiative to complete the process for your business!