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.
- Do's and Don'ts: Trademark Rights and Business Names: Learn what to do and what not to do when finding the right name for your business. If you seek trademark protection for that brand name or business entity, this article is for you.
- Top 10 Reasons To Register Your Trademark: It's essential to complete the trademark application process with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This is a great resource if you're looking into your business name, other brands that promote your products or services, or a potential service mark.
- Register Your Business Name: State Resources: Check FindLaw's state-by-state listing of resources in your geographic area. These resources help you search for existing business names and register your name and related information.
- Trademark Search Questionnaire: View a sample trademark registration form so you know what questions to consider in your trademark search.
- Search the Trademark Database (USPTO): An overview of how to search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's database. It includes tutorials on the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) and extra resources to help you get started.
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.
- Intake Form: Meeting With an Attorney To Trademark a Business Name: This sample intake form will help you gather the information your attorney will likely need for trademark registration.
- Checklist: Documents to Collect When Trademarking Your Business Name: This checklist can help a small-business owner register their business name as a trademark. That list includes samples of your logo and the papers needed to form a business.
- Sample Document: Filing for Transfer of Trademarked Business Name: Learn about transferring a trademark from one entity to another, with information about how to get help from a trademark law attorney. Whether you have a corporation, limited liability company, or nonprofit, you must register your business name with the secretary of state in your state.
- Trademark Infringement Law FAQ: Get answers to the most common questions about trademark infringement. This includes whether it's an infringement if someone else uses your company name for a different type of business.
- Answers to Common Questions About Trademark Litigation (USPTO): Find out what to do if you face a lawsuit or receive a cease-and-desist letter for an alleged trademark infringement. This article from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office tells you how to enforce your trademark protections.
- Domain Names and Trademark Law: Learn how businesses can safeguard their online identity by getting a domain name that matches their trademark or business name.
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.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified business attorney to help you identify how to best protect your business' intellectual property.