A Business Name v. A Trademark

As an entrepreneur, you probably understand how important it is to protect your business from a legal standpoint. (After all, that’s what we’re all about here at Contractista!) But what exactly should you be protecting? Is protecting your business name really that big of a deal? Should you trademark your business name? Can you trademark a business name? What can happen to your business if you don’t take the appropriate steps to legally protect your business now? 

That’s a lot of questions. And rather than you do all the work to find out what you want to know, we’ve got free, attorney-approved answers for you right here. 

What’s the difference between a business name and a trademark? 

This is a tricky question because they could be the same thing or they could be completely different. 

A business name is just what it sounds like: the legal name of your business. Depending on your business structure and what exactly it is that your business does, this may be your name (Lucy Sue, LLC) or something different (Marvelous Macarons). Your business name is the name of your legal entity. It could be the public name you use or it could be a behind-the-scenes name like "Lucy Sue Holding LLC" which operates under a DBA (doing business as) of "Marvelous Macarons".

A trademark, on the other hand, is a word, phrase, or symbol which identifies the services or goods your business offers, so consumers think of your brand right away when they see your trademark. A business can have multiple trademarks. Take Nike for example: "Nike" is a registered trademark, "Just do it." is a registered trademark, and the company has multiple design marks (like the famous check mark).

Can I trademark my business name? 

Trademark rights are conferred by use, so if you are using a trademarkable name in commerce, then you already have common law rights to that name, as long as no one else was using it before you. Federal trademark registration provides your business with significantly added legal protection, but it may not be necessary for every business and not every name is eligible for trademark protection.

There are a few refusals you can run into including a likelihood of consumer confusion (someone else has a confusingly similar name) or that the mark is merely descriptive of the goods or services you offer.

For more information on whether federal trademark registration makes sense for your business, pop on over to Brand Law Boutique and set up a complimentary consultation.