Coming up with the right name for your company involves a number of legal issues to consider. Your company name is ultimately one of your most valuable assets and the best way to protect it is through trademarking it. While trademarking your business’ name is not necessary, it is recommended for legal protection. This week’s blog walks you through the beginning steps to take to ensure that it is:
Registering Your Company Name vs Filing For a Trademark
Understanding that simply registering your business name with the state is not the same as filing for trademark protection. First, we need to check if your business name is already taken. From there you’ll need to take a few extra steps to cover all your bases and just remember that registering your business name with one state only protects the use of that name in that state, so you’re not protected anywhere else.
Filing for trademark protection allows you to exclude others from using the name in the state and out of the state. That’s why working with a professional can be vital to ensure what your needs are and getting them met the right way. Federally registering your company name comes with a number of other benefits as well.
How To Get A Trademark: Common Law Trademarks vs. Registered Trademark
You may not know but “common-law” trademark rights are quite limited and will typically be inadequate for most companies. But registering your name with the USPTO gives you more advantages such as: being able to sue for monetary damages.
Choosing A Name That Will Gain Trademark Protection
Coming up with a name isn’t easy, especially trying to find one that no other company has claimed yet. In order to gain trademark protection, your company name must have the proper characteristics, according to certain standards.
Most importantly, your name must be unique enough to distinguish yours from other trademarks already in use. If you’ve already come up with a name, check to see if it falls into one or more of the following categories:
Fanciful marks: A mark that is entirely invented and has no other meaning, making it inherently distinctive. Examples include Xerox and Exxon. Such marks are the most likely to be eligible for trademark protection.
Arbitrary marks: A mark consisting of a common word that is totally unrelated to the product or service being offered. Examples include Camel and Amazon. Arbitrary marks are less likely to be eligible for a trademark than fanciful marks, but still likely to be accepted.
Suggestive marks: A mark that “requires imagination, thought, or perception” in order to come to a conclusion about the nature of the products or services being trademarked. Examples include Kleenex and Q-tips. Depending on the mark, suggestive marks may or may not be unique enough to be eligible for trademark.
Descriptive marks: A mark that is merely a description of—or has a direct connection to—the good or service being trademarked. Examples include Sweetarts and American Airlines. Descriptive marks are generally ineligible for trademark protection, unless you can demonstrate “acquired distinctiveness,” which often takes years.
The bottom line: Although choosing a company name that doesn’t directly describe your product or service may seem counterintuitive, given this spectrum, using a descriptive name is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to trademark. At Truest Law, we can support you when coming up with a name that will have the highest possibility of gaining trademark protection.
Enlist Our Help With Your Trademark Application
Although you can register a trademark on your own or with the help of a cheap, do-it-yourself (DIY) trademark registration service, the registration process is highly technical. In fact, the process consists of a number of detailed steps, which from start to finish, can take up to a year or more to complete. We will always recommend that in order to save yourself time, money, and hassle, you’ll hire us to guide you through the process. Book a Business Strategy Session today to get started!