I get asked a lot: does incorporating my business automatically trademark it? The fact is: being incorporated keeps anyone else in your state from using the name, but it doesn’t protect that name in the other 49 states. For that, you need a federal trademark.
First, What Is a Trademark?
You can consider a trademark any word, phrase, symbol, or design (or a combination of these) that identifies the source of a product or service and distinguishes it from competitors.
You can trademark your business name, logo, or slogan, as well as domain name (some of them, anyway) and social media usernames.
Why Trademarking Your Business Name is Worth Considering
If it’s important that you’re the only business with your name in the entire country, such as if you own a franchise in many states, or do business across borders and want to be unique, registering for US Federal Trademark protection is the best way to protect your name.
Do You Need to Register Your Trademark?
Technically, an unregistered trademark gives you “common law” rights whenever you use the ™ symbol with your business name, but registering it will give you an additional layer of protection, as you now have legal right to take action if anyone tries to use your business’ name. As long as your trademark is registered with the USPTO (US Patent and Trademark Office), you don’t have to worry.
Find Out if Anyone’s Using Your Business Name
If you’ve already incorporated, you know that no one else in your state is using your business name, because filing a corporation essentially stakes your claim for that name…but only in that state.
Now you need to conduct a free trademark search to see if the name is available at the federal level. Go one further step and conduct a comprehensive trademark search to ensure that there’s not someone out there who has an unregistered trademark with the same name.If it is available, snatch it up!
Benefits of Trademarking Your Business Name
Not only will trademarking ensure that you’re a unique entity in the business world, but it will also give you:
- Treble damages in some cases of infringement
- The right to use ® in your trademark
- A streamlined process for securing your domains and usernames on social sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
- Significantly stronger protection than ‘common law’ (aka. unregistered) marks. This can make it much easier to recover your property, let’s say if someone happens to use your company name as their Twitter handle.