A company name can make a big difference. A properly selected moniker will perfectly work for business promotion on the market and contribute to a strong brand while a weak, plain, or too ordinary name can even slow down the growth of your venture. So, it’s no wonder that once you get a really great business name, you want your company to be the only one that uses it and seek to protect it. Strive to make sure your business name is unique nationwide? If so, trademarking is the answer. Below, we’ll explain what the trademark is and show how your organization could benefit from it. Besides, we’ll unveil the trademarking procedure for you to learn all ins and outs.
What is a Trademark?
Technically, trademarks are used to differentiate between various sources of goods, products, or services. Accordingly, this separation sets one business apart from another and helps control competition. The US Patent and Trademark Office allows trademarking not only words, letters, or phrases but also symbols, designs, images, sounds, and scents. Hence, you can register a trademark for the company name, commercial product name, business logo, or even a label.
In the world of business terminology, trademarks are often confused with trade names. Yet, these notions are not the same. A trade or business name is a DBA (doing business as) in other words. DBAs are state-specific and need local registration. While they are to differ from other company names registered at the state level, they do not lend any specific protection from being used by competitors in other states. By way of contrast, trademarks are registered at the federal level and offer nationwide protections.
It’s also worth noting the difference between trademarks, copyrights, and patents. Thus, copyrights refer to the works of art, music, literature, and cinema while patents are usually issued for various types of inventions. Trademarks, on the other hand, relate directly to the business, commerce, and marketing spheres shielding your business assets.
Why Is a Trademark Important for Your Business?
By trademarking your business moniker, you’ll get an exclusive right for its use. And that right won’t be limited to a certain jurisdiction or location. You’ll be able to use that name for distributing or selling the services or goods you’ve registered for nationwide. Meanwhile, competitors across the states won’t be entitled to use the same or even a similar name. This way, you’ll get solid legal protection for your products or services against any unfair competition and unlawful attempts of your opponents to distract the attention of your potential customers, deceive or mislead them.
Yet another plus is that trademarking also allows regulating the import of foreign products and goods under the names already trademarked in the US. So, the exclusivity it brings is beyond all praise and will help you strengthen and solidify the positions of your brand on the market.
However, remember that despite ensuring trademark registration, the US Patent and Trademark Office has nothing to do with its enforcement. It means that a trademark owner is the one to guard their rights and watch for any infringements. Besides, trademark protections are valid only in the US. If you target foreign markets, you’ll have to file for international registration, which is a different process.
What Are the Benefits of Trademarking a Business Name?
Unless you register a trademark, the mark or name you use while conducting your commercial activity will be subject to common law ownership protection. Simply put, your business name will be protected only within the area where your company operates. While this might be enough for a smaller firm not planning to cross local borders, a bigger organization with ambitious expansion plans certainly needs better protection. Trademark registration provides a higher level of legal protection and comes up with a number of other benefits:
- It will set up a clear connection between your company and the products or services you deliver, thus, eliminating any uncertainty and hesitation among customers that could confuse your merchandise with other similar brands;
- Trademarking a name helps enhance the brand image and market presence. Gaining consumers’ interest and trust, you’ll be able to create a distinguishable and recognizable brand with proper legal protection behind it;
- A trademarked company name is a reliable and efficient proof of business ownership. It greatly contributes to the overall credibility of your venture and makes it more attractive to sponsors and potential investors;
- Along with the nationwide protection and an exceptional right for name use, a trademark will also enable you to initiate lawsuits and take appropriate legal actions, should anyone infringe or breach your name ownership rights;
- Domestic trademark registration will be of great help if you need to apply for a trademark in foreign countries at some point;
- Using an official trademark symbol next to your business name, you’ll make your company look more respectable and feel more diligent, reliable, and trustworthy to clients.
How to Trademark a Business Name
Seemingly simple and straightforward, trademarking a name can turn out a tricky and complicated process. Hence, we’ve split it into the registration procedure so that you could clearly see the steps you should take and the key aspects to consider so that you better understand the whole process and any related issues.
The registration procedure embraces a few quite easy steps to be taken in succession:
- Make sure you really need a trademark. As we’ve stated above, using a business name itself already brings some sort of protection, yet, only at a local level and subject to the proof that your company is the first to apply the chosen name in the industry. To set up protection at a national level and make sure that no one but you will use a specific business name across the country, you’ll have to register a trademark. It’s a reasonable move for growing ventures seeking to create national brands and establish a nationwide presence. Besides, a trademark is an efficient method to protect your local products from foreign competition to some extent.
- Do a trademark search. Once you are strong in your decision to trademark your business name, you should check the availability of the desired name version. You can do it by using a digital search system on the US Patent and Trademark Office website. Navigating through the registered database, you’ll verify that your name option is distinguishable among existing trademarks and you can use it for your application. A pro tip here is to check not only a single version you have in mind but also any similar versions. This way, there will be a lower risk that your application will be rejected due to a name similarity with other used monikers.
- Complete the application. This step is as important as the trademark search since the application approval largely depends on how correct, precise, and diligent you’ve been when preparing it. So, you need to be maximum attentive to the data and details you provide. The info to cover in the trademark application form includes:
- Filer’s name, address, and contact details;
- A business name you seek to trademark. Notably, you can file the name in a certain form or design. Yet, your trademark will shield only this name representation;
- Products, goods, or services this name will relate to. You should also assign those products or services to a specific class and provide their description. You can either find it in the dedicated US Patent and Trademark Office manual or write it down by yourself. Besides, if the product or service is already on sale under the chosen name, you’ll have to give some documentary proof of that. If you file it for intended use, you’ll have to deliver that proof later on;
- Date and filer’s signature.
- Submit the application. You’ll do it via the Trademark Electronic Application System. When you file the application, it will be assigned a unique number so that you could trace it afterward. Your application will be reviewed by a government attorney. Should any issues be detected, you’ll receive a special letter and have six months to fix them. If everything is ok, the trademark will be listed on an online journal for about three months waiting for an opposition. If no opposition occurs, your trademark will be finally registered.
Important Aspects to Consider
While the registration process looks pretty clear, there are a few more things you need to be aware of and take into account when filing a trademark:
- A basic fee for submitting an application is about $250. However, the total cost can run much higher, especially if you hire an assistant to help you out with the registration or will have to engage a lawyer at some point. Besides, if you register for more than one class of products, you’ll have to pay for each class separately;
- Though the application procedure is quite fast, the overall turnaround time might appear over 6 months due to a thorough review process;
- If your application is not accepted for some reason, a filing fee is not paid back;
- Trademark registration usually lasts for 10 years and will have to be renewed;
- Should you desire to add other types of goods to your product range, you’ll have to register a separate application.