Trademarks and Business Names

When you need to blow your nose, you don't reach for a "tissue" but rather a "Kleenex." And when you want a sugary brown soft drink to wash down that cheeseburger, you're more likely to ask for a "Coke" or a "Pepsi" than a "cola." Established brand names have the power not only to eclipse the brand names of competitors but also to become the default term for entire product categories. While the success of brands such as Kleenex and Coke are quite extraordinary, they illustrate just how important it is to create a memorable brand name. And in order for that brand to stick, you'll want to protect it as a registered trademark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Trademarks and business names are not always the same, and in fact it's quite common for a business to brand itself under a fictitious business name or through other trademarks instead of its official name. For instance, the Kleenex brand is owned by Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc.

The following is an overview of trademarks and business names, with links and resources to help you make the right decisions. See FindLaw's Trademarks section for more resources.

Trademarks and Business Names: Getting Started

Suppose you're a scrappy young startup and want a business name that resonates with your target market, or perhaps you're a sole proprietor looking for a DBA ("doing business as") that does the same. In either case, you'll want to do your research and make sure the name is available (i.e. not already trademarked) before you print those business cards, order signage, and launch your marketing campaign.

Trademarks and Business Names: Additional Resources

Once you've done your due diligence and decided on a business name, ensuring that it favorably represents your brand and is not already trademarked, you'll want to register that name (as well as the trademark). You also might need to transfer a trademarked business name, defend your trademark against infringement, or conduct other actions.

Consider Getting Legal Help with Your Trademark and Business Name

What's in a name? Quite a bit, actually, when you're a business whose fortunes to some degree rise and fall in proportion to public identity and brand recognition. Choosing the wrong name or failing to trademark it can have dire consequences that could be avoided with the right legal counsel. Find a trademarks attorney in your area today.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified business attorney to help you identify how to best protect your business' intellectual property.

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