Protecting Your Business’s Name

What’s in a name? When it comes to your business, that answer is simple, it’s “everything.”

Your name is a part of your brand; it’s what people think of when they need the services or products you offer. It’s the positive or negative emotions that may be associated with your past work. It’s a critical part of who you are.

If you’re just getting started, you may be tossing around name ideas. Or, you may have a name that you’re ready to move forward with. That’s half the battle. The next half? Protecting that name.

Have you taken the time to register your business’s name? If not, you are generally required to do so by law; the public has a right to know who is behind a company. While this is not required in sole proprietorships that use the individual’s legal name, in most other cases, registering is a requirement. Additionally, registering the name protects it from being used elsewhere.

There are various options for actually registering your business’s name. Below are three of the most widely used and accepted options.

1. Forming an LLC, Corporation or Other Structure.

When creating your business, you may have considered the various business structure options that are available. Two popular options are LLC’s and corporations. While going into actually creating these structures is a separate topic (we have covered LLC’s here: Articles of Organization for LLC’s), the actual setting of the structure also relates, in a way, to your business’s name.

When you submit your LLC or corporation application, the state in which you register will check to be sure no one else in the state is using the same – or too similar – name. After the application has been approved, no other business in the state will be able to use the name. This means that if you register in multiple states, your name will be protected in those states.

2. File a DBA.

A Doing Business As, or DBA is a simple way to register your business’s name. In some states, this is also referred to as a Fictitious Business Name.

This is a common option for sole proprietors since a DBA allows a business to use a name – for taxes, banking and other purposes – without creating an actual entity such as the structures mentioned previously. This means that if Allison Craft wanted to call her business “Services by Allison,” she would need to file a DBA to make the name a recognized business name.

DBA’s are also required when a business that is an LLC or corporation goes by another name. For instance, if “Groceries by Greens, LLC” wanted to go by “Green’s Groceries,” as well.

If you’re hoping to expand or operate, a DBA may be limiting, and a trademark may be more appropriate.

3. Applying for a Trademark

If you’re interested in both protecting your brand’s name, and expanding across multiple locations and states, a trademark application through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office may be most appropriate.

Trademarks are not required to use a certain name for a business. However, business names with registered trademarks come with additional protection. It makes it easier to claim your rights in cases where others are using the name – on social media, online marketing or other situations that may arise.

Before applying for your trademark, do a little research to be sure no one is already using your desired business name – if there is a conflict that you are unaware of, your application will be rejected and the costs you put into the application will be lost. Once you’re as sure as possible that the name is available, proceed with the trademark application.

Each of the options above comes with different advantages. Unsure of how to move forward in protecting your business’s name? Contact an experienced business law attorney, like Michael Hynum of Hynum Law today. Set up a consultation to discuss options for protecting your business and next steps for moving forward.

Give us a call today; we look forward to working with you!