Trademarks are relevant to every single business. While most business owners don’t need to know the nuts and bolts of trademark law, they should know how to apply to federally register a trademark and understand the potential consequences of failing to do so.
A company name is not always the same as a trademark — this is something many business owners find out the hard way. Slapping a name on a business without registering it can give one the right to use it to a certain extent, but that right could be easily undermined.
Read on to understand why registering your company name as a trademark is non-negotiable if you want to protect your business.
What Is a Trademark?
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, logo, or some combination of these elements that identifies and distinguishes a business. Trademarking your company name or logo through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) means that you have the prevailing right to use it and to bring legal action against any business infringing on your trademark.
“Likelihood of confusion” is a key aspect of building a trademark infringement case, and it refers to the likelihood of a prospective customer being unable to distinguish one provider of goods from another due to the similarity of their trademarks. Even if a rival business is not using the exact spelling or pronunciation of the word or phrase you’ve trademarked, you can bring action against them for using something confusingly similar.
However, a business in another industry could potentially use your name without conflict. For example, if you start a coffee delivery service called “Drip” and someone else starts an IV clinic by the same name, the low likelihood of confusion will probably prevent you from enforcing your right to the name.
What Is Common Law Usage?
A common law trademark provides protection to a business that has been using that trademark without officially applying to register it through the USPTO. Your common law protection begins the moment you start using your company name commercially within your geographic area, and only applies to your geographic area.
In this sense, a company name and a trademark can be the same thing: your company is asserting itself as a trademark based on its mere existence in the marketplace. But common law protections have limits, and a business operating without an official trademark could find itself in a vulnerable situation. You may have been using the mark for some time only to discover that you never had any right to it because it already belongs to another business. And if someone else begins using your trademark, you will be unable to bring action in federal court concerning the mark.
Why Take Advantage of NameStormers’ Business Naming Services?
NameStormers has seen businesses make the mistake of getting attached to a name that hasn’t been vetted from a legal availability standpoint. Some even start using a name before double checking that it is legally available, and then come to us because they suddenly need something they are actually free to use!
We do our best to save clients the headache (and heartache) of surrendering names they love. Our comprehensive seven-step name development process includes a preliminary trademark check with the same tools that trademark lawyers use. Other naming agencies and name generators hand over a list of names and force you to figure out whether they are actually viable. At NameStormers, we weed out names that appear to be legally unavailable before we present them to you, and we take pride in our thorough process.
Contact us today to start your company naming adventure with confidence.