When you start a business, the most important thing you can do is protect your name. Not only is it crucial to your branding and marketing efforts, but it's also necessary to legally secure your company's identity.
It is estimated that over 12% of businesses will be sued for trademark infringement in their lifetime, and the average cost of litigating a trademark infringement case is $2 million. The stats are even more damaging when you consider online infringement, which is even more common and can cost a business upwards of $100,000 to defend.
This article will discuss how to protect your business name online and offline, including the steps you need to take to secure your business name and trademark it.
Why is Protecting Your Business Name Important?
Your business name is your brand. It's how customers will remember you and what they'll associate with the products or services you offer. As such, it's crucial to choose a name that is not only unique but also one that can be easily remembered and spelled.
Unfortunately, in today's day and age, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a business name that isn't already taken. With over 30 million businesses in the United States alone, the chances of finding an available name are slim. And, with the rise of the internet and global commerce, it's even more challenging to find a new name that someone in another country isn't already using.
This is why it's crucial to protect your business name. Securing your name can prevent others from using it and harming your brand. Additionally, if you have a federally registered trademark, you can sue infringers for damages, which can help offset the costs of protecting your name.
How to Protect Your Business Name Offline
There are two primary ways to protect your business name offline: common law and federal registration.
Common Law Business Name Protection
Common law is the legal protection you have as soon as you start using your business name. This protection comes from state laws, which vary from state to state. In general, common law provides limited protection and only applies within the state where you are doing business. Additionally, common law does not give you the right to sue infringers, nor does it give you the presumption of ownership.
To receive common law protection, you must start using your business name in commerce. This can include registering your name with your state, printing business cards, and using your name on marketing materials. Once you start using your name, you can take steps to prevent others from using it.
If someone does use your business name, you can send them a cease-and-desist letter asking them to stop using your name. If they refuse, you can file a trademark infringement lawsuit against them. However, keep in mind that common law protection is limited, so you may not be successful in stopping them from using your name.
Federal Registration of Your Business Name
Federal registration is the strongest form of protection you can have for your business name. Unlike common law, which only applies within your state, federal registration gives you nationwide protection. Additionally, federal registration gives you the right to sue infringers and presumption of ownership, which means you do not need to prove that you own the trademark in court.
To register your business name, you must file a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office(USPTO). The USPTO is a federal agency that reviews and approves all trademarks. To be approved, your trademark must be unique and not already used. Once your trademark is approved, you will receive a federal registration certificate.
It's important to note that federal registration is not required to protect your business name. However, it is strongly recommended, as it gives you the most potent form of protection available.
Register the Business Name in Your State
One of the most important steps to protect your business name is registering it with your state government. This will give you an official record of your business name and help prevent others from using it. To register your business name, you must file a "doing business as"(DBA) form with your state government. This form is sometimes called a "fictitious name" or "assumed name". The process for filing a DBA form varies from state to state, but it is generally not very complicated or expensive.
In most states, you can file a DBA form online, by mail, or in person. You will usually need to provide some basic information about your business, such as the business name, the owners' names, and the business's address. Once you have filed your DBA form, it is important to keep it up to date. You must update your DBA form if you move your business or change the owners. You may also need to renew your DBA every few years, although this varies from state to state.
Filing a DBA is a good way to protect your business name, but it is not the only step you should take. Even if you have a registered DBA, another business can still use your name if they register it as a trademark. Therefore, you should consider registering your business name as a trademark to get full protection.
How to Protect Your Business Name Online
In addition to protecting your business name offline, it's also important to protect your name online. After all, more and more people are doing their shopping and research online, which means that if someone infringes on your business name online, they could seriously damage your brand and reputation.
Domain Name Registration
Domain name registration is the process of registering your business name as a domain name. This gives you exclusive rights to use that domain name and prevents others from using it. Additionally, it allows you to build a website using your business name, which can help promote your brand and increase awareness of your business.
To register a domain name, you must choose a domain name registrar. A domain name registrar is a company that manages the registration of domain names. Once you have chosen a registrar, you will need to select a domain name and pay the registrar a fee. The fee varies depending on the registrar, but it is typically around $10 per year.
Once you have registered your domain name, it's important to keep it active. If you do not renew your registration, someone else may register it and start using it for their own business. Additionally, you will need to renew your registration every year to keep your domain name active.
Secure Multiple TLDs (Domain Name Extensions)
When registering your domain name, you will need to choose a domain name extension. A domain name extension is the domain name part that comes after the dot, such as .com, .net, or .org. Hundreds of different domain name extensions are available, and you can usually register more than one.
Registering multiple domain name extensions is important because it gives you more protection against infringement. For example, if someone tries to register a domain name that is similar to yours but with a different extension, you can still block them from using it. Additionally, it allows you to redirect traffic from one extension to another, which can be helpful if someone tries registering a domain name with a popular extension. Still, you have already registered the same name with another extension.
To register many domain name extensions, you must go with a domain name registrar that supports a large number of extension registrations. After you've made your decision, you'll need to pick the extensions you want to register and pay the registrar a fee. The cost varies based on the registrar, but it's usually around $10 per year for each extension.
Remember that you don't need to register dozens of domain name extensions. A few well-chosen ones will suffice. The most important thing is to ensure you have registered the most popular extensions, such as.com, .inc, and .org.
Monitor Your Domain Names for Infringement
Once you have registered your domain name, it's important to monitor it for infringement. For example, if someone tries registering a domain name similar to yours, they may be trying to infringe on your trademark. Additionally, if someone uses your domain name in a confusing or misleading way, they may also be infringing on your rights.
There are a few different ways to monitor your domain name for an infringement. One way is to use a service that will notify you if someone tries registering a domain name similar to yours. Another way is to periodically search for domain names similar to yours and see if anyone has registered them. Additionally, you can set up Google Alerts to notify you if someone uses your domain name in a potentially infringing way.
You can take action if you believe someone has infringed on your domain name. One option is to send a cease-and-desist letter asking them to stop using the domain name. Another option is to file a dispute with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is the organization that oversees domain name registration.
Protect Your Domain Name with a Trademark
A domain name can be protected as a trademark. A trademark is a legal protection that prevents others from using your brand in a confusing or misleading way. If you have a registered trademark for your domain name, you can take action against someone who uses it in an infringing way.
To register your domain name as a trademark, you must file a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office(USPTO). The application process is relatively simple, but it can be expensive. The cost of filing a trademark application is $275, and the cost of registering a trademark is $325.
If you have a registered trademark for your domain name, you can use it to stop someone from using a similar domain name. You can also use it to stop someone from using your domain name in a confusing or misleading way. Additionally, you can use it to get a domain name that is similar to yours transferred to you.
Secure Social Media Names
Just as it's important to secure your domain name, it's also important to secure your social media names. Social media is a powerful marketing tool; if someone registers a social media account in your name, they could potentially damage your reputation. Additionally, if someone uses your social media name in a confusing or misleading way, they may also be infringing on your rights.
To secure your social media names, you should register for all of the major social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Additionally, you should register for any social media platform that is relevant to your business. Finally, once you have registered for a social media platform, you should periodically check to see if anyone has registered a similar account.
Establish a Brand Presence
One of the best ways to protect your business name is to establish a strong brand presence. A brand is more than just a name—it's the overall image that your business projects. A strong brand can help you build customer loyalty and prevent others from trying to piggyback off your success.
There are a few different ways to build a strong brand. One way is to create a well-designed website that clearly represents your brand. Another way is to use social media to promote your brand and connect with your customers. Additionally, you can use traditional marketing methods, such as print ads and television commercials, to raise awareness of your brand.
What Should You Do if Your Business Name Has Been Infringed
This situation is every business owner's nightmare. You've worked hard to build your business, and now someone is trying to take it away from you. However, if you believe that your business name has been infringed, you can take a few steps.
Battling Business Name Infringement Offline
You can take action if you believe someone is using your business name without your permission.
- Cease & Desist Letter: If you believe that someone is using your business name without your permission, you can send them a cease and desist letter. This letter will ask them to stop using the name and may also threaten legal action if they do not comply.
- Filing a Dispute: Another option is to file a dispute with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or a similar organization. This dispute will be public and may persuade the infringer to stop using your business name.
- Trademark Infringement: If you have a registered trademark for your business name, you can file a trademark infringement lawsuit. This is a costly and time-consuming process, but it may be the only way to get the infringer to stop using your business name.
- Filing a Lawsuit: If all else fails, you can file a lawsuit against the infringer. This is usually a last resort, as lawsuits can be expensive and time-consuming.
Battling Business Name Infringement Online
If someone is using your business name online, you can take a few steps.
- Domain Name Dispute: If someone is using your business name as a domain name, you can file a domain name dispute. This will require you to prove that you have a trademark for the business name and that the infringer does not have a legitimate reason for using the domain name.
- Cybersquatting: Another option is to file a cybersquatting claim. Cybersquatting is when someone registers a domain name with the intention of selling it to the owner of the trademarked business name.
- Sending a Cease & Desist Letter: You can also send a cease-and-desist letter to the infringer. This letter will ask them to stop using the business name and may also threaten legal action if they do not comply.
- ICANN Complaint: If you believe that the infringer is using your business name in bad faith, you can file an ICANN complaint. This complaint will be sent to the domain name registrar, and it may result in the cancellation of the domain name.
- Reporting the Infringement: Finally, you can report the infringement to the social media platform where it is taking place. Most social media platforms have policies against trademark infringement and will typically take action if you report the infringing account.
Preventing Business Name Infringement in the Future
The best way to protect your business name is to prevent infringement from happening in the first place. However, there are a few steps you can take to make it more difficult for someone to infringe on your business name:
Ensure Your Business Name is Unique
One of the best ways to protect your business name is to make sure it's unique. Choosing a name similar to another business in your industry can be tempting, but this can lead to confusion and potential legal issues down the road.
Do a thorough search of both Trademarks, domain names, and social media profiles before settling on a name for your business. This will help you avoid any potential infringement issues.
Keep Your Business Name Consistent
Once you've chosen a business name, it's important to keep it consistent across all of your marketing materials. This includes your website, business cards, social media profiles, and other places where your business name appears.
Using a consistent business name will help build brand recognition and prevent confusion down the road. It will also make it easier to enforce your trademark if you ever need to do so.
Do Your Homework on the Trademark Process
If you want to register your business name as a trademark, you must do your homework on the process. There are a few things to keep in mind, such as:
- The different classes of trademarks
- The process for registering a trademark
- How to enforce your trademark
Working with an experienced trademark attorney can help make the process go more smoothly and help you avoid any potential pitfalls.
Consider a Trade Name Registration
If you're doing business under a name that's different from your legal name, you may want to consider registering it as a trading name. This can provide some additional protection for your business name and help you avoid any legal issues in the future.
Registering your business name as a trading name is a relatively simple process, and it can give you some peace of mind knowing that your business name is protected.
Monitor for Infringement
Even if you take all of the necessary steps to protect your business name, there's always a chance that someone will violate your trademark. That's why it's important to monitor for infringement regularly.
There are a few ways to do this, such as:
- Doing regular searches on Google and other search engines.
- Monitoring social media for unauthorized use of your business name
- Setting up Google Alerts for your business name.
- Working with an experienced trademark attorney can also help you keep an eye out for infringement and take action if necessary.
Securing Business Name FAQs
What is business name infringement?
Business name infringement is when someone uses your business name without your permission. This can be in the form of a domain name, social media profile, or even a physical storefront.
How do I know if my business name has been infringed?
The best way to know if your business name has been infringed is to monitor it regularly. This can include doing regular searches on Google and other search engines, monitoring social media, and setting up Google Alerts. Then, if you see someone using your business name without your permission, you can take action to stop the infringement.
How do I protect my business name from infringement?
There are a few steps you can take to protect your business name from infringement, such as: ensuring your business name is unique, keeping your business name consistent, registering your business name as a trade name, and monitoring for infringement.
If you think your business name has been infringed, you should contact an experienced trademark attorney to discuss your options.
What is a trade name?
A trade name is a name that a business uses for marketing purposes that's different from the legal name of the business. Registering your business name as a trade name can provide some additional protection and help you avoid any legal issues in the future.
How do I register my business name as a trade name?
The process for registering your business name as a trade name varies from country to country. In the United States, you can typically file a trade name registration with your state's secretary of state office.
How much does it cost to register a trade name?
The cost of registering a trade name varies from country to country. In the United States, the average cost is around $50.
What are the benefits of registering a trade name?
There are a few benefits of registering a trade name, such as:
- It can provide additional protection for your business name.
- It can help you avoid any legal issues in the future.
- It can make it easier to enforce your trademark.
What is a trademark?
A trademark is a sign that distinguishes your goods or services from those of other businesses. Trademarks can be in the form of words, logos, or even sounds.
How do I register a trademark?
The process for registering a trademark varies from country to country. However, you can typically file a trademark application in the United States with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
How much does it cost to register a trademark?
The cost of registering a trademark varies from country to country. However, in the United States, the average cost is around $275.
What is a TLD?
A top-level domain (TLD) is the last part of a domain name, such as .com, .net, or .org. TLDs are managed by ICANN, an international organization that oversees the internet's addressing system. There are hundreds of TLDs in use today, including generic TLDs (gTLDs), such as .com and .net, and country-code TLDs (ccTLDs), such as .uk and .ca. While any organization can apply for a gTLD, ccTLDs are typically reserved for organizations with a physical presence in the country in question. In recent years, ICANN has opened up the application process for new gTLDs, creating hundreds of new domains, such as .nyc, .blog, and .shop. While some of these new domains have been met with excitement, others have been met with criticism, as some believe that they simply add to the clutter of the internet. Only time will tell whether these new domains will be successful. As of now, they remain an integral part of the internet's addressing system.
What is ICANN?
ICANN is a nonprofit organization that is responsible for managing the domain name system (DNS) on the internet. DNS is the system that converts human-readable domain names (like www.example.com) into numeric IP addresses (like 192.168.0.1). ICANN manages the top-level domains (TLDs) of the DNS, which are the parts of a domain name that come after the dot (like .com, .org, and .net). In addition to managing TLDs, ICANN coordinates the assignment of unique IP addresses and works to ensure that all DNS servers are compatible. While ICANN does not control content on the internet, it plays a vital role in keeping the internet running smoothly. Without ICANN, the internet would be a much more chaotic place.
How to check if your brand name is available on social media?
There are a few ways to check if your brand name is available on social media:
- Use a tool like Inc Domains Social Media Checker to see if your username is available on over 15 social media sites.
- Do a Google search for your brand name + the word "social media" to see if any social media profiles come up.
- Manually search for your brand name on each social media site that you're interested in using.
What are some tips for choosing a good business name?
When starting a business, one of the first things you need to do is choose a name. But with so many options out there, it can be hard to know where to start. So here are a few tips to help you choose a good business name:
- First, try to come up with a unique and memorable name. This will help potential customers remember your business and what it stands for.
- Second, make sure your name is relevant to your business and what it does. This will help customers understand what your business is all about at a glance.
- Finally, try to keep your name simple and easy to spell. This will make it easier for people to find your business online and in directories.
By following these tips, you should be able to come up with a great name for your business that will help you get started on the right foot.