How much do you know about business name protection? After coming up with a business name, you must ensure that it is protected, especially if you are using it as a trademark. This prevents a host of challenges that might start as just minor annoyances, but in today’s digital world often lead to significant problems impacting your brand reputation and your legal trademark rights.
Throughout this blog, we’ll explain how to protect your business name and why it’s important to do so. You’ll learn the key steps to go through for trademark protection, as well as what happens when your business name is unprotected.
Why Do You Need To Protect Your Business Name?
Protecting your business name is critical in today’s world of AI name generators that create mountains of names similar to what is already out there. It may seem like a minor thing, but since your company name plays a critical role in your business, making sure others don’t copy it has never been so important. And if you don’t yet have a name, coming up with a truly fantastic business name that differentiates you from your competitors is essential, no matter how painful the process is!
Assuming you’ve found that brilliant business name, the next step is securing protection. This will help you in the following ways:
Avoid Confusion & Build Brand Recognition
If you are using your business name as your brand name, you should protect it with a Federal trademark. This will help you prevent others from using your name in the same business that you are in. Your name should be unique to your business entity and lines of business, which allows you to avoid confusion with competitors. Before the internet, loads of other businesses had the same name (e.g., many banks had the same name like First National Bank). As the internet gained popularity and online banking became a thing, this created countless headaches.
Protecting your business name helps you avoid this. It reduces confusion surrounding who you are. It also helps build brand recognition with consumers. People see your name and identify it with your company and not the First National Bank in an adjacent county.
Save Money On Legal Issues & Avoid Tarnishing Your Reputation
An unprotected business name is ripe for tampering with. Other businesses can use your name for products or services without any issues. Or, even worse, someone online may use your brand name for something sinister. Because your name is being used, it tarnishes your reputation by association.
We actually made this mistake with our name, NameStormers, when we registered it for a U.S. federal trademark. When we did this, we didn’t bother to register it in Europe and sure enough, a competitor popped up in Germany calling themselves Namestormer. While we can prevent them from providing services in the U.S., we can’t keep them from causing confusion with many of our European-based customers.
So, without the proper trademark protection in place, you may find yourself forking out loads of money on legal costs trying to sue the individual/company for using your name or something confusingly similar.
On the other hand, if your business name is protected, you have the law on your side. It’s easier to handle lawsuits and many legal disputes will be avoided as companies see that your brand name/trade name is protected. You will save money in legal battles and hopefully avoid instances where people use your brand name, often tarnishing your reputation.
Boost Brand Value & Build More Trust With Consumers
A recognized and established business name will add value to your brand. It provides gravitas, making you look better while enhancing your credibility. You’ll probably find it easier to build trust with consumers or your business customers.
When people see that your business name is protected and trademarked, it makes them feel like they’re dealing with a professional company. They might more readily trust you, that you are a legitimate company and are someone they want to do business with. Statistics show that 81% of consumers put brand trust as the top factor when deciding between multiple businesses.
In other words, a professional business name that’s adequately protected could help your growth and sales thanks to the trust signals it produces!
How Do You Protect Your Business Name?
You’ve seen why protecting your business name is important, but how should you go about it? This section will walk you through the main steps while also mentioning a few misconceptions to be aware of.
Register Your Business
Registering a business name is the first step in protecting it. This alone will not protect your name, but it will help you become a formal business entity. You can register your business with federal or state agencies depending on what you do and where you’re located.
Remember that if you register your name as just your trade name or your DBA (doing business as name), even if you formalize your name as a corporation or a limited liability company, it doesn’t mean your business name is automatically protected as a trademark. You still need to proceed with the next steps for full protection.
Trademark Your Brand Name
This is the step that most business owners neglect. They assume that registering their business is the same as trademarking it, but that is simply not true.
You must register your business with the trademark office to protect your business name, assuming you are using your business name as a brand name. This is a legal process that gives you the right to use your business name as a brand name, not just as a trade name. While certain common law usage rights accrue just by using your name as a brand name, you are afforded stronger protection if you register it as a trademark. As such, only you can use it for the products or services you sell. You can also use a trademark to secure the intellectual property you develop associated with it, meaning other people or brands can’t steal or use the equity and reputation you’ve built up for your creative work done under your business name.
However, trademark laws are extremely complicated. You may encounter various trademark challenges along the way, which is why you should seek help from professionals.
You can use our trademark screening service to ensure you’re equipped to become a trademark owner and protect your business name. We’ll guide you through everything and can even help you come up with a unique company name that engages your customers and helps you leverage your marketing dollars more effectively!
One other thing to note is that you will not protect your name with a United States patent. There’s a common misconception that patents and trademarks are the same, but they’re not. A trademark protects your name while a patent is used to protect inventions or discoveries.
Register All Domain Names
Did you know that trademarking business names doesn’t give you the right to a domain name? You still have to purchase the domain extension online to secure it.
What is a domain name? It’s the unique website address for your company. As you can imagine, you want to secure one with your business name for continuity. You can buy domains online – so make sure you purchase and register them ASAP.
Sometimes, it’s smart to register multiple domains – even if you don’t use them. This prevents other entities from claiming similar domains and posing as your business.
Secure All Business Social Media Accounts
Finally, you must claim all the right handles for your social media accounts. Once more, this is done to prevent a fictitious business from posing as you or to stop another business from stealing the name.
Hopefully, you can secure the social media handles for free – but if someone already owns the handles, you may have to pay them. Or, contact the social media company directly and explain that you have the trademark for this name and wish to use it for your business. It’s not guaranteed to work, but as the trademark owner, you do have leverage to sometimes negotiate a better deal.
So hopefully, you now have a better idea of how to protect your brand name! As a small business owner, you can’t afford legal distractions to impact your cash flow and growth. Dealing with imitators or becoming embroiled in legal issues is not worth it. Use the steps in this guide to register your brand name/legal name and protect it for years to come. And, of course, if you need the help of professionals who have been doing this for decades, please give us a call.