An essential marketing decision in entrepreneurship is naming the business. Whether it bears your name or a clever pun, it is one of the highlights during of starting a business. However your creative process may be hindered by trademark registration, business incorporation, and state registration. You can protect yourself from being held liable to trademark infringement by going through the following avenues to name your business.
If you name your company after a business whose name is already trademarked, you are liable for trademark infringement. This is avoidable by going through the U.S. Patent and Trademark office’s website. Search for the potential names you have in mind as well as names that are close to your potential name.
In the event the name you’re considering isn’t a registered trademark, then check if it is unregistered. Some companies do not go through the patent office because under U.S. law a trademark can be established just by doing business. You will need to play detective for a bit to ensure that you do not interfere with any trademarked companies. Do an Internet search for businesses under the same name, and be sure that you carefully check for companies in similar industries and geographical location.
If a business has the same name that you are thinking of, but in a different area and industry, you will most likely be safe from possible liability. However you may want to reconsider the name if it is a major corporation’s name, or similar to the services you provide and is geographically close. If names are close – consult with an attorney.
Another check to do is look through the fictitious name (doing business as name) database. You go through the county and state government to see if your business name has been taken. This is not an official trademark, however it is proof that someone is using the same business name as yours.
A good tip for availability is to look for web domain availability. If the exact name that you have in mind is in use, then it is likely the name of a company.
You will need to incorporate your business if you are starting an LLC, C corp, or an S corp. The availability of your company’s name needs to be incorporated with the state, and that can be found at the secretary of state’s office. If the name you wish to incorporate is taken, you may still use the name if the service your company is providing is different or if it is geographically far away.
Even if you have trademarked or incorporated your doing-business-as name, you can also register the name with the state. The only reason would be to alert the government that the business is in a different name than your own.
Trademarking is the preferable route for business owners because of the state and federal protection you are given. Other businesses will not be able to take your name then. Even if you do not trademark the name you may still be able to protect yourself through trademark infringement, however being officially registered is the safest option. If you have any questions about this process, speak with an attorney.