Distinguishing Between a Business Name and a Trademark

When starting a business, it is important to take the proper steps to acquire a valid business name and secure valuable trademarks in order to maintain the brand identity of your business and secure your property rights.

In its initial stages, a business must register its name with the Secretary of State. The name is required be distinct from any other business name within the state. Once the name is registered, other businesses in that state may not use that same name to denominate their businesses. In contrast, a trademark is a form of property that is used to identify the origin of a particular good or service. Because of the value associated with a trademark, the application for registration and subsequent enforcement options are more detailed and exacting. Accordingly, the rights incurred through trademark registration are enforced by both the federal government and state authorities.

The major distinction between a business name and trademark is inherent in the characterization of a trademark as a property claim. As such, the owner of a trademark has exclusive rights to that mark and can exclude others from using the same mark or a substantially similar mark that may likely cause confusion.

The exclusivity of a business name, however, is limited to the state in which the business resides. State regulations vary considerably regarding how different a business name must be from existing names within the state. But in all cases, the business name is not required to be distinct from business names in other states. Thus, in contrast to trademark registration rights, a corporation may legally conduct business in another state where the same business name already exists.

Connors & Associates provides experienced legal advice in the areas of patent, trademark and copyright law. John Connors and his team of associates have the expertise to counsel clients about protecting their intellectual property including pursuing, filing and enforcing trademark rights. Contact Connors & Associates at (949) 833-3622 or visit them online to learn more about our services or to schedule a consultation.

Dylan Connors

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