Starting a business can seem like a monumental undertaking. Breaking down the necessary steps can help you control your to-do list and prioritize your tasks into manageable chunks. Let’s start with your business name.
A great business idea is worthless without the right name. If you don’t want to get swallowed up by the myriad of businesses in your industry, you need to start off on the right foot. It all begins with your name.
Choosing a Name
Entire books have been devoted to the process of naming your business. In fact, this blog has numerous articles that can help you choose a name that is creative, unique, and memorable. If you have yet to choose a moniker, peruse our list of names and see what stands out to you. All of our names have been painstakingly chosen to give your business the identity it is searching for.
After you have chosen a name, you need to jump through some legal hoops. Don’t be discouraged if you are confused as to which direction to travel. Legal statutes and requirements can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to look. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone.
Registering Your Business Name
Legally speaking, any business that is actively seeking work needs to be registered. This is an easy process that can usually be done online with your city, county, or state. Laws often vary from state to state, so make sure you meet the legal requirements for your specific location.
Do I Need a Trademark?
First of all, there are some terms you need to be aware of, the first being “trademark.” A trademark is defined as:
“Any name, symbol, figure, letter, word, or mark adopted and used by a manufacturer or merchant in order to designate his or her goods and to distinguish them from those manufactured or sold by others.”
In other words, a trademark is what protects your business and will prevent another business from using a name or logo that is likely to be confused with your business name.
You are not legally required to file for trademark protection, but it is most often in your best interest. Not only does it protect your business, it also ensures that you have not chosen a name that infringes upon anyone else. Another term that you should be aware of is “trademark infringement.” Simply put, trademark infringement is defined as:
“a violation of the exclusive rights attached to a trademark without the authorization of the trademark owner or any licensees.”
If you choose a business name that is too similar to a competitor’s name (and vice versa), you might find yourself accused of violating the competitor’s legal rights. If that happens, you may be forced to change your business names and could possibly be forced to pay monetary damages.
One of the most famous cases of trademark infringement involved Apple Corps, the multimedia company formed by the Beatles, and Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.). Apple Inc. was formed nine years after Apple Corps. Apple Corps successfully sued Steve Jobs and Apple Inc. and was awarded a monetary judgement.
The word “trademark” is often confused with “copyright” and/or “patent.” Copyright is defined as:
“The exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.”
As you can see, the general concept behind copyright is the same as with trademark. Simply put, it is what is being protected that is different. You have likely heard the term copyright in regards to music and whether one artist has stolen a work or part of a work from another artist.
On a similar vein is the term “patent,” which is defined as:
“A government authority or license conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention.”
Depending on your type of business, you may very well deal with patents as your business develops.
How Do I Know if a Name is Already Trademarked?
Like anything in business, the first thing to do as you choose a name is to do your homework, and that may entail more than just a quick Google search. There are several databases that list trademarked companies, the best of which is the “Federal Trademark Database.” Any questions you have can be answered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Be wary of online sites that claim the ability to search trademarks. It is better to go to a reliable source and save yourself potential headaches down the line.
Now that you have a registered name and trademark, you are ready to launch your business. Even though you already have a name, continue monitoringBrandroot for valuable articles that can help you develop your business into a success.