Starting a business is no easy task. Once you have your business up and running you will soon understand the devotion it requires to get it off the ground, and also understand the importance of protecting your business’ name and brand. Picture the financial impact your business will undergo if another company opened shop using your same business name. In many instances, someone opening a business using your business’ name can likely divert your customers and leave your business defunct because of the legal expenses of trying to prove that you are the true owner of the brand.
Differences Between Registering a Business Name and Filing for a Federally Protected Trademark
Many business owners are confused between the difference of registering their business name with their respective secretary of state and filing for a federally protected trademark. In this part of the article, we will break down the differences and explain the benefits of registering your business name with U.S. patent and trademark office(USPTO), to help determine what is best for your business.
Registering a Business Name With The Secretary of State
Whether you decide to register your company as a corporation or an LLC, filing with your respective secretary of state is required. Do your own research. This step is critical when choosing the correct proposed business name, this way, you ensure that the proposed name is currently not being used by another company in the state your business will be registered in. The secretary of state will also investigate to confirm that the name you are filing with is not use by another business before it is approved.
Once your business name is approved by the secretary of state, it will be protected in the state where the company was filed; no other business will be able to file for a corporation or an LLC in your state under the same name. However, this does not imply that any other business owner could not file under your business name in the remaining 49 states in the country. Hypothetically, if you incorporated your business in Florida, another individual can file a corporation or an LLC in Texas or in New York under your same exact name. Determining what level of protection you want to give your business and the future plans you may have for expanding nationwide will determine whether state protection suffice or if you will need to register federally with the USPTO.
Filing for Trademark protection with the USPTO
When deciding to register for a trademark, it is essential to consider whether you want to register your logo or company name, because they both require a different process, thus requiring two separate filings. When registering your company name, it is considered a “standard character mark” which only protects the name itself, independent of any font, color and or word styling. As the owner of a trademark, you will have exclusive rights to the trademark, in this case, your business name and you can prevent anyone else from using it at the state and federal levels.
When you register your business logo to the USPO, you will receive state and federal protection over the exact shape, orientation and stylization. This prevents someone from using your logo and or something that looks inherently similar to your logo. While registering both your business name and logo is critical, if your financial resources are limited, you will have base your decision off which will require more protection.
Benefits of a registered trademark
Registering your trademark comes with benefits in the case you have to enforce your rights against an individual who is using your name and or logo. Below are some of the benefits of registering your trademark
- Legal presumption that you are the owner of the mark
- Legal presumption of exclusive right to use the mark
- Puts the public on notice of ownership of mark
- A record of the mark in the USPTO database.
- Can record registration with U.S. Customs & Border Protection to prevent imports of goods in violation of the mark
- Right to bring legal action concerning mark in federal court
- Use registration as basis for foreign filing
- Able to use federal registration symbol: ®.
In the end, having the maximum protection for your business will require you to register both your business name and logo. As the business expands, you will need to consider what is most important for the stability and growth of your business and then take the right legal steps to protect your name and logo.