Your business’s name will be at the forefront of everything that you do, so it is crucial that every necessary precaution is taken to protect such an important aspect of your brand. As you grow and expand, make sure to take all the steps needed to protect your business name and all it represents.
Perform a trademark search
A federal trademark is one of the most effective ways that you can protect your business name and is the very first place that you should start. This process begins with a trademark search, which determines if there are existing trademarks on the federal register that may conflict with yours and can alert you of any similar marks within your industry. While a trademark search may seem like an unusual place to begin when solidifying your business name, this search is the best way for you to learn what possible conflicts exist in your industry and are currently functioning in the marketplace. Without this step, investments made in other protective measures—such as registering a business name or purchasing a domain, which we will discuss in a moment—could potentially be made void by a competing, conflicting trademark. Find out how to perform a trademark search here.
Apply for your trademark
Once your business name has been cleared and any needed changes are made, a trademark attorney can assist with drafting and filing a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Ideally, your trademark application should be filed before you move on to additional steps in protecting your business name—this is because the date your application is filed becomes your federal priority date. Additionally, waiting too long to file an application after the search is performed can alter the results as new applications are filed; an application too similar to yours, even filed just a few days before, would still take precedence over yours. Once the search shows a strong likelihood that your mark will register, it is imperative that the filing is made promptly.
Upon registration, your trademark is an invaluable defense for your business name. Many litigation matters, domain disputes, or third-party uses of your trademark are swiftly and favorably resolved due to the ownership of a trademark registration. Further, trademarks act as a deterrent and will often prevent conflict from occurring at all once a competitor has been put on notice that a mark is in use and a registration has already been acquired.
Register your business name
Once your business name has been established, you will need to form a business entity in your state, such as a limited liability company or a corporation. Prior to filing, however, it is imperative that you first perform an entity search. This preliminary searching will give you a good idea of the your name’s uniqueness and, should you find that there are several similarly-named entities already in existence, it may provide clarity regarding your branding and help you go back to the drawing board to further clarify the originality of your business name. Once you have made certain that your name is available, you can move forward with establishing your business entity.
Most state filing agencies do not permit identical or overly similar business names to be registered within the same state, so this step acts as a first line of defense for your business name. Before you file, you can still make sure that your selected name is available and look for any entities that may be confusingly similar to yours by using the state’s online database search feature or contact the agency that handles these filings as part of your preliminary search. Make sure you search different variations or misspellings of your selected business name so that you are aware of any other entities that could be possibly mistaken for yours. Even if you aren’t quite ready to form a company yet, many states let you reserve your business name prior to registering, thus allowing you to protect your chosen name even if the business isn’t quite off the ground.
Find a domain
As the online marketplace grows to accommodate virtual business, companies are taking their products and services online to appeal to this vast consumer base. This transition necessitates the need for a domain name, which acts as the identifier for the company’s website and is often comprised of some variation of the company’s name. While looking for your ideal domain, be sure to conduct a preliminary search as your first step—there are several online domain searches engines that can help you determine what domains are available to you and what others may pose an issue for your branding. These searches are crucial in avoiding domain disputes down the road.
Performing a search and registering your domain name are also steps that can be done regardless of what stage of life your business might be in—it’s never too early to start looking online at what options are available, and domain registration can be done even before your website is up and running, allowing you to secure your business’s name as a domain and protect the future of your online presence. Finding and registering the name of your business as a domain provides a direct line from your customers to your offerings; further, it can act as a safeguard against cybersquatting, which occurs when another party takes that domain name and attempts to profit off of the goodwill you’ve created within your company’s name and your brand. For more information about cybersquatting, check out our post on domain name disputes.
Overall, when looking to protect the business name that acts as a symbol of your company, its reputation, and the goodwill that you have built within your consumer base, it is imperative that all the necessary steps are taken to protect it. Make sure that your business is safeguarded in your hometown, within your region, and beyond your state’s borders by performing a trademark search, filing a trademark application, registering your business name, and solidifying your domain. If you are ready to get started in protecting your business’s name, please reach out to an attorney at Gerben IP to begin today.