Is the Name of your Business Protected?

Many people mistake obtaining a domain name as protecting the name of their businesses. Others believe that having a business license in the name of the business protects them. Unfortunately these can be costly misconceptions if you ever decide to expand your business.

If you have not protected the name of your business through a trade or service mark and the name is not available when you start your expansion efforts, you will have no choice than to change the name of your business or buy the trademark from its owner. Both of these options can be very expensive.

While it is always important to own a domain name in the name of the business and its likely variations, this decision does not protect the name of your business. The only way to get your name protected is by obtaining a trade or service mark from the US Patents and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The USPTO defines a trademark as the protection of “words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods. Trademarks, unlike patents, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in commerce.”

However, keep in mind that even when you have been granted a trademark, you may not be protected everywhere in the US. For example, if a business has used the same name prior to you in their location, they are grandfathered and have the right to that name in that area, even if you have a trademark.

If you ever plan to expand your business overseas, look into obtaining international trademarks for the countries where you are most likely to go.  Make sure to take this step as soon as you know there is a high probability that you are going to expand into a country.

It is most important that you use your business name. Many people get a trademark and then abandon it. Lack of use will be a sure way of loosing your rights to your trademark.

Getting a trademark for your logo is a good idea; yet it is more important to protect the name of your business first. You may change your mind about your logo as time goes by, but you will probably not change the name of your business. New businesses are likely to modify their logos several times until they find one that really identifies them. Thus, it is wise to wait until that time before obtaining a trademark for your logo.

When you apply for a trademark, you need to choose the classes it should cover. Think about Delta Airlines and Delta Faucets, the same name (Delta) for two different trademarks, but they are in different categories or classes. So, it is important to think not only of the products and services you offer today, but those you are likely to have in the future. Make sure you apply for these classes as well.

Obtaining a trademark is not a difficult process but the assistance of a trademark attorney during this process can be very helpful. If your application gets questioned by the examiner, an attorney will know how to reply to the queries effectively.

If you are planning to franchise in the future, get your trademark now. It will save you money and headaches.