A business name is often fundamental to its branding strategy. A lot of time, money, and thought can be expended while creating that business name. An often overlooked aspect of this process is protecting the business name when it is desirable to do so. Business owners frequently believe that because they have formed a business entity with that new name or filed an assumed name certificate that they are lawfully permitted to use the new name in their branding. This is an incorrect belief and may lead to problems in the future. The new business may need to change its branding or compensate another business for the damage to that business' brand.
The standards and requirements for a state permitting a business name to be used is different than the standard for granting a trademark registration. A business may be formed for tax, legal, securities, or other many other non-branding purposes. A business name used for those purposes is not used for branding and not generally publicized and warrants a lower standard in registering that business name. Contrast that scenario with a business name which is explicitly used in advertising and in connection with sales of goods and services to consumers. In that scenario, the business should analyze its trademark issues. Thus it may be prudent to perform a search and submit a trademark application on the new business name.
This article was written by a strategic business partner of Brandwise.John Lindsay is an intellectual property attorney focusing on patent, copyright, trademark, and technology law for startups