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Trademarks and Business Names

When you need to blow your nose, odds are good you don't grab a "tissue" but rather a "Kleenex." And when you want a sugary brown soft drink to wash down that cheeseburger, you're more likely to ask for a "Coke" or a "Pepsi" than a "cola."

Established brand names can eclipse competitors. Their product name then becomes the default term for the entire product category. While the success of brands such as Kleenex, Coke, and Band-Aid is extraordinary, they illustrate how important it is to create a memorable brand name. For that brand to stick better than a generic bandage, you'll want to protect it as a registered trademark. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) oversees the process through its Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).

Trademarks and business names are not always the same. It's pretty common for a business to brand itself under a fictitious business name or trademark instead of its official name. For instance, Kimberly-Clark Worldwide Inc. owns the Kleenex brand.

This article provides an overview of trademarks and business names. Use the links and resources to help you make the right decision for you. See FindLaw's Trademarks section for related resources.

Trademarks and Business Names: Getting Started

Suppose you're an entrepreneur or a startup creator. You want a business name that resonates with your target market. Maybe you have a sole proprietorship and are looking for a DBA ("doing business as") that does the same. Either way, you'll want to research and ensure the name is available.

Searching for similar names before picking a name for your business is key to avoid potential infringement. With a new business, you must be aware of the nuances of the trademark process. This includes the filing fees, which trademark symbol to use, and more. The links below will help answer those questions.

Trademarks and Business Names: Extra Resources

Once you've done your due diligence and decided on a business name, you'll want to register that name, as well as the trademark. Ensure these names represent your brand and are not already trademarked. You also might need to transfer a trademarked business name, defend your trademark against infringement, or conduct other actions.

Consider Legal Advice About How To Trademark Your Business Name

Even though you have some common-law protections, a federal trademark for your business name is important to protect your brand identity. Trademarks provide exclusive rights that allow businesses to take legal action in federal court. Find a trademark attorney or intellectual property lawyer in your area today who can help you with the trademark application process.

For more information about intellectual property rights, visit FindLaw's Intellectual Property section.

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