Ten key facts on trademarking your business name

When you’ve found a great business name, you might well start thinking about registering it as a trademark. After all, your brand name is a business asset, so protecting it makes a lot of sense.

The trouble is, the whole area of trademarking is full of misunderstandings and confusion.

The following ten facts should provide some of the fundamentals, clear up a few confusions – and de-bunk a few myths along the way.

(1) A trademark is not the same as a copyright or patent

Trademarks, copyrights and patents are all types of Intellectual Property, but each protects something different.

Copyright is automatically granted to the creator of an original work (like a book, song or design) and protects their rights over its use and reproduction. A patent offers similar protection to the inventor of a product or process. How to copyright a logo UK

A trademark however, is simply a recognisable word, symbol, or design that identifies a business as the source of specific goods or services. Registering a trademark enhances its legal protection.

(2) Registering a business name is not the same as registering a trademark

All business names have to be registered with the relevant authorities before the business can trade legally. This is Companies House in the UK, and the county clerk’s office or relevant state government in the US.

To register the name of a business, it can’t be identical to another business name and must follow certain rules, but this is simply the registration of a legal entity – and has nothing to do with trademark protection.

(3) A business has to be up and running before it can register its name as a trademark

You can’t register your name as a trademark before you start up. The business has to be a going concern – and using the name in question – to apply for trademark registration.

So make sure you’ve checked the viability of your application with a trademark specialist before you commit to your chosen name.

(4) Descriptive or generic words can’t be registered as trademarks

A trademark must have distinctive character. In other words, your business name can’t be registered if it uses generic words or words commonly used in your sector (even if they’re misspelled).

Business names that are entirely made-up, or subtly suggestive, are therefore easier to register.

(5) Your name doesn’t have to be unique to be a registered trademark

Two or more companies can register the same word as a trademark, so long as they are registered for different products or services, or in different countries.

The existence of a registered trademark elsewhere in the world, in an unrelated sector, shouldn’t prevent you from registering the same trademark for your business.

Curious to find out more facts about trademarking your business name? Read five more facts on page two…

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