If you’ve started a business, you probably put a lot of thought into coming up with a name. This moniker is a core part of your company’s branding and identity. You want people to recognize it and associate it with high-quality goods and/or great service.
So, your business name is very important. And, like anything important, you should protect it.
Registering your business name as a trademark can safeguard your branding and raise your business profile.
Let’s take a look at trademarks, how they can benefit your business, and how you can go about registering your business name as one.
A closer look at trademarks and business names
Brand recognition and brand reputation are crucial to the success of your business. If you have a great product and a good brand, people will quickly start to associate your business name with the level of quality and service you pride yourself upon.
But what if a new brand pops up? One that makes a product similar to yours but of lesser quality?
As a general rule, this shouldn’t be a massive problem for you. Your brand has established itself as a quality choice, so an inferior competitor shouldn’t cause issues. But, what if that low-quality competitor picks the same name as you?
This has the potential to cause several problems, including:
- Confusing your customers
- Poaching your customers
- Harming your business reputation by selling inferior products under “your” name
All in all, it’s bad.
That’s why trademarks exist.
What’s a trademark, you ask? Well, a trademark is a form of intellectual property. It’s something (usually a word, phrase, or symbol) that’s legally established to represent a certain brand, company, or product. When you trademark something, you register exclusive ownership of the trademarked entity.
So, by trademarking your business name, you become the exclusive “owner” of it. If anyone else tries to use your trademarked business name to muscle in on your territory, you can take them to court.
Trademarks are indicated by the trademark symbol (™) and last for as long as you’re regularly using the word, name, or logo.
Benefits of registering a business name as a trademark
There are plenty of benefits to registering your business name as a trademark. Here are just a few of them.
Legal protection for your business identity
As we’ve discussed, trademarking your company name gives you exclusive rights to use it as a business/product descriptor. This means nobody else can use your name or (if you’ve trademarked them) your logo, slogan, etc.
This helps you preserve your brand’s integrity and keeps you safe from copycats trying to trade off your reputation.
Building brand recognition and reputation
Having protected your business name through trademarking, you can start to capitalize on it. A trademark lets you spread your brand name far and wide, building recognition and reputation as you go.
You can use trademarked branding to stamp your brand identity over everything, from newsletters to invoices. Most software will allow you to customize this with your own branding, which has an extra impact if you’ve trademarked your name.
For example, accounting software by Sage allows you to add trademarked branding to your bills, which makes everything look slicker and more professional. You can incorporate this with other tools, such as Frontify, which makes it easier to maintain a consistent brand look across your entire business. All of this combined will distinguish your brand as your business grows.
It’s also worth noting that a trademark signifier by your business name adds a sense of legitimacy and professionalism to your brand. When people see this symbol, they know you’re serious about your business and what it stands for.
Facilitating business expansion and franchising
Protecting your brand and building recognition all help you expand your business. If you want to take your products into new markets or even create a franchise, trademarking is essential.
By trademarking it, the branding of your business remains consistent no matter how big and widespread it becomes. You can franchise your existing model and expand into new states (or even countries) with a recognizable brand identity to trade-off.
Registering a business name as a trademark
So, how do you go about registering a business name as a trademark? Let’s take a look.
Eligibility and requirements
There’s no legal requirement to trademark your business name. But, if you want to go down this route, registering your business with the secretary of state for your particular locality is often enough to stop other companies from being registered in your area with the same name.
But if you want to take your brand nation- or even worldwide, a trademark is probably a good idea.
All businesses are eligible to register an original trademark if they choose to, but you should consider whether or not you actually need one before embarking on the process. Remember, trademarks cost money, and you have to use your trademarked properties regularly to preserve them.
It’s a good idea to take a thorough look at the resources you have, your potential profits, your customer base, and how things such as brand recognition impact these. Technology like ERP accounting software can be a big help, as it gives you an overview of all the elements of your business, such as your available resources and profit over time.
If your research shows a clear correlation between brand recognition, profits, and customer loyalty (and your ERP software shows you have the resources to register the trademark), you may well want to go for it.
Conducting a trademark search
Once you’ve decided to trademark it, the next step is to make sure your business name is unique. This is important—if someone else has already trademarked this moniker, not only will you be unable to register it, but you could be in trouble for trademark infringement.
There are two types of trademark search you can carry out:
- A knock-out search. A knock-out search can be performed by anyone using the Federal Trademark Register, which can be accessed through the USPTO website. The searcher simply types their proposed trademark into the search box, and the register will return any identical or close matches.
- A full search. A full search is much more in-depth and is usually carried out by a specialist company. Often, these companies will engage the services of an intellectual property lawyer to comb through the hundreds of pages of results that come back from a full search, so they can work out potential implications and conflicts.
If you can, search as thoroughly as possible for conflicting trademarks. Even if you find your exact business name isn’t trademarked, further research may reveal a similar company with a similar name that might be confused with yours. This could impact your brand reputation down the line.
In general, it’s a good idea to have as original a trademark as possible. So, make sure your business name isn’t too close to any other trademark.
Overview of the registration process
Your trademark will be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Getting a trademark can be a complex process involving several steps. You’ll need to:
- Head to the TEAS (Trademark Electronic Application System) website to fill out your initial application. You can choose between TEAS Plus, which is a more complex set of forms to fill in but has a lower overall cost per good/service ($250), or TEAS Standard, which is an easier process but charges more per good/service ($350).
- Select your good/service offering from the list.
- Fill out the forms.
- Pay the fees in full.
- Keep checking TEAS in case the system needs any more information for you.
- Wait! The registration process can take up to 18 months, so you’ll need to be patient.
If your trademark is rejected, you have 30 days to object to this decision.
Consider professional assistance if needed
Trademarking isn’t something you have to do all by yourself. You can get professional and/or technological help if you need it.
For example, accounting and ERP software can help you determine whether or not it’s worth trademarking your business name. You can use these to compare things such as brand recognition, customer satisfaction, and revenue and glean insights about whether or not your business could benefit from trademarking.
You might also want to consult intellectual property lawyers. Companies such as Kilpatrick Townsend specialize in trademark law. They can not only advise you on whether trademarking would be right for your business but take care of filing and registration on your behalf.
Even running your trademarking ideas past another pair of eyes can bring benefits. For example, a fresh perspective on whether or not your business name is appropriate can be very revealing.
So, don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help if you’re considering trademarking your business name.
Trademarking your name can have huge benefits for your business. It protects you from copycats, helps preserve and build your brand reputation, and can form a cornerstone of your brand identity.
While it isn’t a quick or easy process, with the right advice, technology, and professional assistance, taking the time to trademark could be a big factor in the future growth and success of your business.