April 1, 2021

Protecting Your Business Name with Trademarks

Nothing represents a business better than its brand name. 

It’s easy to connect your brand with its name, along with your logo. They can be associated with good quality products or world-class services, that’s why it’s important to keep that image in the mind of your customers and maintain that reputation. But what if a competitor decides to use the same name?

This is where trademark registration can come in: to help make sure your business is protected, and at the same time use it as a “weapon” against those who try to infringe you.

What are trademarks?

By definition, a trademark is any word, phrase, logo, design, or any combination used to identify and distinguish a product or service of one business from others. Trademarks are not limited to your business names. Slogans or taglines such as “I’m Lovin’ It” by McDonald’s or “Just Do It” by Nike can also be trademark protected. Even logos such as Nike’s ‘swoosh’ can also be trademark protected.

Now if you’ve been in any industry long enough, you’ll also hear the terms trade names and copyrights used alongside trademarks. To give you a brief and clear distinction between the three, your trade name is just another term for your business name, and they are used to identify your business for non-marketing purposes. Your copyrights, on the other hand, protect original creative works of expression such as a logo design.

We will be focusing on your business name and why registering it for a trademark is beneficial for your business and your brand.

What are trademarks for?

Trademarks aren't mere decoration, nor is it just some fancy way of showing that your business is legitimate. Rather, a trademark’s main purpose is to be a legal blanket of protection for you and your brand.

Trademarks help prevent unfair competition between companies that bank on customers’ confusion to get more sales. A good example would be if a restaurant or a small diner decides to use a golden ‘M’ arch as its logo. When people enter that establishment, they might confuse it for McDonald’s or think it’s somehow connected to the popular fast-food chain. 

Do you ever wonder why companies go crazy when they find out that some business (big or small) out there has the same name, logo, or tagline as theirs?

Aside from the confusion that it creates, having another business out there providing products and services using the same name as yours can run the risk of tarnishing your business’ reputation. One subpar product or unsatisfactory service from these copycat businesses can spell misrepresentation for your own brand. 

You wouldn’t want your brand and business to be associated with poor quality of products and services, right? That’s why with trademarks, you can actually protect your investment and your business’ reputation.

If you’re still mulling over whether you should apply for trademark registration for your business name, we’ll give you a rundown of some of the reasons why you should consider applying for trademark registration.

Why does your business name need a trademark registration?

Registered trademarks protect your business and your brand. With that protection, comes a few benefits:

1. You make sure that all sales go to your business

When you have competitors with the same business name as yours, you run the risk of losing customers and, in turn, sales. By keeping your brand strong and secure, you make sure that you reap the full benefits of your quality and reputation.

With a registered trademark, you can be assured that your customers won’t be misled to spend their money with a competitor.

2. You have legal protection for you and your brand

Imagine finding out that another business out there is using the same name as yours and they profit a lot from it. Even if you claim to have used the name first it will be difficult to prove it without any trademark registration. Unfortunately, this is a reality that a lot of small businesses face.

When your business name is a registered trademark, you now have the leverage to take legal action related to your trademark. At the same time, you also protect yourself from any legal action from those who claim that you infringe their intellectual property.

3. Secure funding

Aside from protection, trademarks also provide a certain level of “ownership” when it comes to the brand. Should you choose to find investors for your business, most of them would be more inclined to partner with a business that has no legal complications. At the same time, investors sometimes require a trademark registration for the business name before partnering with you.

4. You boost the recognition of your business and brand

Once you register your business name for a trademark, you actually put your brand on notice. It’s a more elaborate way of telling everyone that “Hey! I’m here! My business exists with this name.” 

At the same time, you communicate to anyone who attempts to use your business name that this name is already taken and protected. You inform them that you intend to defend this name even at the court of law.

Normally, your business name is already vested for a trademark once you open it commercially. But does that mean you no longer need official registration?

There is some form of protection even for unregistered trademarks. But the benefits we mentioned earlier are only available to your business once your trademark is registered. And sadly, a lot of starting businesses are just satisfied with the bare minimum.

We strongly encourage you to register your business name for a trademark. To help you start, here are some couple of steps that you can take:

How to trademark your business name?

The process of applying for trademark registration can vary from one country (or region) to another. Each of them has its own set of rules and standards that you have to follow in order for your business name to be registered.

You must keep in mind that the trademark registration only applies to the country where the trademark is registered. For example, if you registered the trademark in the United States, then the trademark registration only applies in the US.

Even so, you can already start doing the following to start your application:

1. Make sure that your business name is not yet taken.

A small yet important measure that you can take before your actual trademark application is to make sure that no one else is already using your potential business name.

While it can be tempting to start and end with a quick Google search, it is more advisable to do a trademark search first using an extensive trademark database. Usually, it’s advisable that you do a trademark search on the area or country where you plan to set up shop. For example, if you’re planning to have your business over the United States, you should start your search over at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database. On the other hand, if you’re setting up shop in any part of the EU then the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) should be your first stop.

But if you are planning to do business in more than just one country or outside of your home country, it is important to check each one to make sure that your business name is available in every single one.

Did you find that no one has trademarked your business name yet? Great! But that’s not where your search ends. Now it’s time to do a quick search over Google or any reliable search engine. This time, you should watch out for any other companies that might be currently using the same business name with an unregistered trademark.

It may seem tedious, but it’s better to find out if someone else has used your business name rather than being sued for trademark infringement later on.

If you want to be completely sure about your searches, you can hire or ask a trademark lawyer to do these things for you. This will make sure that your search will be reliable, and that you don’t miss any business that may have already used your business name.

2. Submit your application to the respective trademark registration office

Just like your trademark databases, each country and region has its own specific set of requirements when it comes to trademark registration. Aside from the requirements, the application process of each country and region will also vary. If you’re planning to register in multiple countries or regions, you will have to take note of each one so you can plan ahead.

When it comes to trademark applications, it’s always better to double-check the list of requirements and deadlines before submitting them. Again, you can hire a trademark lawyer to help you out with the application.

3. Keep track of your application.

Once you’re finished filing your application for trademark registration, you might have to wait for a while before the trademark is granted to you. But that doesn’t mean you’ll slack off with your application.

While your application is being processed, you might receive requests for clarifications, submission of additional documents, or further questions about your business. These things require an immediate response from you so it’s always best to always stay on top of your application.

Applying for trademark protection is one of the first steps you should make once you’ve decided on your brand. It gives a wide variety of benefits to your business legally and, at the same time, for your brand as well.

Keep in mind that the steps presented to you are just a few of the basic concepts and steps you should understand to get an initial grasp of what trademark protection can do for your business. We strongly advise that you hire and work with a trademark lawyer and specialist so that you can have a firmer grasp of what trademark registration can do for your business. At the same time, they can also help you with your application.

As you start building your business, coming up with a name that captures the spirit of your business and what you offer to your customers is just the tip of the iceberg. Wouldn’t it feel great knowing that you have complete ownership of your business name? 

By registering for an official trademark, you can have a well-protected business name that you can be proud of through any ups and downs you might face.

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