Company Identity 101: How to Trademark a Business Name

how to trademark a business name registered tm


Well over half a million companies are born every year. A large number of those companies want two things from your business: your customers and your money.

Are you just going to turn around and give them those things? Heck no!

So then, how can you solidify your standing within your marketplace without letting the new kid on the block roll in and snatch up your hard-earned business? By filing for trademarks, that's how!

If you're not sure what a trademark is or how you can get one, don't worry. We've got you covered.

Below, we'll give you a crash course on the trademark process by teaching you how to trademark a business name. Once you get your business name trademarked, you can then leverage that education to trademark other important aspects of your business.


Step One: Know What a Trademark Is

Before you can fully figure out how to trademark a business name, you're going to want to understand what a trademark is and how it differs from other legal protections like copyrights and patents.

A trademark is defined as a recognizable design, sign or expression that differentiates products and services from others in a marketplace. That's very different than a patent, which is used to protect product designs or copyrights which protect trade secrets.


Step Two: Select a Mark Type

When you're filing a trademark application, you'll be asked about the kind of trademark you're interested in pursuing. The three options you'll be given are "standard character" trademarks, "sound" trademarks, and "designed" trademarks.

If you're trying to trademark a logo, a designed mark would be appropriate. If you're just trying to trademark your business name, you'll want to opt for a standard character trademark.


Step Three: See If DIY Filing Is an Option

The trademarking process can get pricey between your application fee and legal help. To try and bring some of those expenses down, consider self-filing.

Anybody can file their own trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), although doing so might get a little tricky if you're not sure what you're doing.

Online tools like LegalZoom can make things slightly easier if self-filing becomes too complicated.


Step Four: Seek Legal Counsel

When you want things to go off without a hitch, hiring an attorney is always a good option.

Trademark and patent attorneys can be found on review aggregator websites like Yelp and Google. They can also be found within free digital legal directories.

Trademark attorneys will likely charge by the hour so be sure to get an estimate of how much they feel the total cost of your filing will run. Also, plan on the possibility of revisions needing to be made should your application get rejected.


Step Five: Scan For Similar Marks

With an attorney in your corner, you can start taking a back seat and letting them do the heavy lifting on your filing. If you're going at it solo though, during this step, you'll need to see if other people have filed similar trademarks to yours.

It's important to note that just because another company has trademarked your business name doesn't mean that you can't trademark it as well.

The USPTO will allow the same name to be trademarked so long as both businesses operate in separate spaces.

If you see that another business has trademarked your name in your space, you may be able to take action per cybersquatting laws which you can read more here about.


Step Six: Build a Clear Association

Prior to filing our trademark application, you'll need to fill out forms that clearly define what your business does and how your trademark associates with your products and services.

This association process is what will let the USPTO more clearly understand whether or not your trademark is too similar to a preexisting one in their database.


Step Seven: Know Your Intent

When you go to file your trademark, there are one of two declarations of intent that you'll have to make.

First, there's "use in commerce" which says that you're already using your business name to sell products and services and that you'd like to cover yourself going forward. The second option is "intended use" which means that you're not actively using the trademark that you're filing for but are putting in an application so that you'll be covered the moment that you start.

Almost all established businesses that are registering their name would leverage the use in commerce option.


Step Eight: File and Relax

Now that you have everything worked out, you or your attorney will compile all of the information that you've come up with into an application and submit it to the USPTO.

In a perfect world, the US patent office will approve your application and you can go on doing business with a smile on your face. In an imperfect world, your application will get rejected and reasons will be given as to why.

At that point, you'll need to make revisions and resubmit your application for further consideration.


Closing Out Our How to Trademark a Business Name Advice

When you're trying to figure out how to trademark a business name, the process might seem overwhelming but it doesn't have to be. Our advice is to just take things step-by-step and if you're feeling in over your head, contact a lawyer.

With a little patience and the right help, you'll get your trademark accepted in no time!

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