Can You Trademark Your Business Name?

A trademark is a distinctive image, word or other thing that associates with a product or service. So, can you trademark your business name? Most people think trademarks are logo oriented. In some ways, this is true. The Nike Swoosh is clearly a logo trademark that stands out in peoples minds. When you see it, you immediately think of Nike and its products. While logos can clearly be trademarked, what about a business name? The answer is both yes and no.

A trademark is a consumer oriented thing. While it protects the intellectual property of businesses, it is a legal step designed to protect consumers. The basic idea is a trademark should point to a particular product or service and only be used by the company backing those items. This helps consumers in two ways. First, it represents an assurance of a particular type of quality associated with the products or services provided by the company. Second, it precludes other companies from causing consumer confusion by infringing on that mark.

When it comes to your business name, you can trademark it if certain requirements are met. I am going to avoid the legal mumbo jumbo that confuses people, and stick with a general rule of thumb. If you use your business name in advertising or on the product or service, you can trademark it. A classic example is “Google”. Google is both a company name and used on the service itself. When you go to the home page of Google, you see “Google” prominently displayed. As a result, this business name can be trademarked.

If you do not use your business name in a direct communication to consumers, you cannot trademark it. Why? Well, there is nothing distinct about it that reminds consumers of the connect. TJMaxx is a well-known discount retail store. Most people have at least heard of the name. The company behind the name, however, is actually TJCos. Nobody has heard of “TJCos” and certainly do not associate it with a store. As a result, this business name would be difficult to trademark, if not impossible.

If your name is going to be a fundamental part of your marketing effort, you should consider trademarking it. If it is not, then your probably should save your money. Obviously, each situation is different, so make sure you speak with legal counsel in your area.

Richard A. Chapo is a trademark lawyer with SanDiegoBusinessLawFirm.com.

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