SAFEGUARDS

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    How to Protect Your Business Name

    Your business name is a vital asset. It’s on everything from your business card to your checking account, insurance policies, contracts, and your front door (if you have one). You also may have invested time and resources building brand recognition around your name. So how do you go about protecting your investment?

    You’ll automatically have some protection if your state requires businesses to register. Secretary of State offices typically won’t allow competing businesses to register names that are too similar. That won’t help you, however, if you’re doing business in multiple states or online. Then your best bet is to get trademark protection for your name.

    While it’s possible to file the forms yourself, the different options can be confusing. For example, do you need to file on the federal or the state level? Or, does your chosen name clash with an existing trademark? An intellectual property attorney can help you make informed decisions.

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    There are three steps you can take right away:

    • Check out this info from the SBA, which provides an explanation of the difference between a trade name and a trademark.
    • Start searching the Internet to see if your preferred business name is available as a URL. Owning a trademark does not guarantee any rights to the URL. It’s a separate process.
    • Developing a brand can take some time. You may find it makes sense to open the business using your own name for all the banking and legal paperwork. Then, as you refine your product or service offering and value proposition, you can create a brand name that really suits it. This brand or trade name is also known as a DBA (doing business as) or a fictitious name. It’s easy to register on the state level. That’s the name you’ll want trademark protection for—as well as ownership of the associated URL.