When starting a new business, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of putting all of your creative energy into the development of the goods and services that will serve as the backbone of your enterprise. Unfortunately, it is also easy to put important and fundamental components of the business plan on the backburner. One such component is the business name and associated brand. Business owners sometimes assume that the business name they intend to go by will always be there for the using. Those who strive to be somewhat conscientious on this issue will go to domain registrars such as GoDaddy and reserve a domain name that includes the intended business name. However, registering a domain that contains your business name does nothing in the way of the intended trademark protection that a business owner seeks. After all, a trademark is how you go about protecting the brand that you worked hard to create.
While such efforts can be commended for their foresight, they are incomplete without the follow up efforts required for true business name protection. This false sense of security sometimes begins at the corporate formation stage, where business owners often mistakenly believe that the corporate name that the Secretary of State told them was “available” is akin to a formal protection of the business name. However, the only thing the Secretary of State was representing was that the name had not yet been used for purposes of a corporate formation.
The only true way to protect your business name is through state (and where appropriate) federal trademark registration. Unless your business will truly be relegated to your local community, a federal trademark registration is preferred since it provides the broadest scope of protection across the country. The process is not as daunting and costly as you may think. An experienced trademark attorney can assist you in preparing the application and getting it on file with the United States Patent and Trademark Office within a matter of days. Although the process of obtaining a trademark registration may take several months, there are protections in place that preserve your business name rights as of the date of your filing, and in some cases, the date of first use. It is important to tackle business name matters on the front end, as it can be a costly mistake to invest money on a name only to later have to abandon its use because someone else has superior trademark rights.