Are you confused on what you should do to protect your business name?
Are you concerned that someone might use your business name?
The whole process of naming your business seems complex and daunting at a glance.
There are different terms and ideas that you need to get familiar with to make sure that you are fully aware of the weight of the name of your business.
You may be able to enjoy your trade name rights and protection depending on what kind of registration you made.
This is the reason why it is crucial for you to grasp the general concepts involved in making sure that your business name is protected. The terms and concepts are broken down here to make it easy for you to understand.
As a result, you will find that the seemingly daunting task of a business name registration is not that intimidating.
Moreover, consulting with a business lawyer will provide you with a deeper understanding and provide answers to fill in the gaps of information.
Business Name Registration
Even if you are a first-time business owner, you have some idea regarding the processes of business registration. Among the long list of the tasks that you need to do, you will read there about the filing of articles of organization, which is basically the paperwork for the LLC.
A quick browse at the steps that you need to follow will lead you to the fact that registration of your business name is required when you file the articles of organization.
Yes, registration of business name is as easy as that.
What happens next after the registration? Is your business name fully protected now?
Though you have registered your business name, this does not mean that you are already done by all the business name-related tasks. The different states may have slight differences concerning the processes needed for the name registration of your business, but follows the idea that no other LLC and corporation may use your registered business name in that specific state.
Does this mean that you can file a legal case against someone who used your business name?
This is where most people get confused because they tend to think that business name registration is the same as trademark registration.
You will get to know more about the differences between the two later. Let us look first at another term that is related to LLC business name registration.
What Is a Fictitious Name?
A fictitious name is also a name – that a business entity may use in lieu of the registered business name – for business transactions, products and services offered. It is also referred to as the Doing Business As (DBA).
In the business industry, filing a fictitious name statement or the assumed name certificate is a requirement if you are planning to sell your products or the services you provide using a different name.
The same is required if you will use your business name and do not want to attach the LLC suffix. If your business name is JJJ Furniture, LLC and you want to use JJJ Furniture or Furniture and Interior Designing, the said filing for fictitious name is applied.
Importance of Fictitious Business Name Registration
You might think that this is just another hassle and expenses that could be shrugged off. However, that would be very unwise of you to do because there are plenty of reasons why you should register even your DBA.
Many financial institutions will not allow the opening of an account named after your business if you cannot provide sufficient proof that your trade name is properly registered. Plenty of problems will happen if you are not able to open your business bank account.
Do you remember the contracts that are indispensable to small businesses?
All contracts containing a DBA will not be enforced unless you make sure that the name is registered. Moreover, hesitance or negligence to register your fictitious name poses a danger to your business.
Your competitors who are not aware that you are already using it might also use the same name unknowingly and take some of your clients.
Processes of Fictitious Name Registration
Please take note at this point that not all states require the registration of your DBA because they do not define it as another and separate entity. However, most states mandate that registration should be done with your local government.
There are cases where this is done at the county level, resulting to varying forms and fees for trade name registration. If you are confused, it is a good idea to call the clerk’s office of the county where you plan to register.
Hiring a business lawyer is another option. Concentrate with other important aspects of starting your business and let a professional handle the legalities of your business.
Again, there could be slight variations in the procedure, but it usually needs you to make sure that there are no other businesses registered under that name. You will search the database of DBA to confirm that the name you are trying to register is not yet in use.
Next would be the filling out and submission of the registration form that you may access online. Once you are done, do not forget to pay the filing fee.
Depending on the law of your state, you may be asked to publish your DBA in a newspaper and provide proof that you really did.
Others are concerned if the law requires the trademark registration or not. The answer is no. You may operate a business without registering your trademark, but this will be to your disadvantage.
How is this so?
Remember that business name registration is mentioned and discussed above. Going back to it will lead you to the realization that business name and trademark registration are different from each other.
Registering your trade name only gives you the legality of operating and transacting a business under that name, but you do not have the exclusive rights over that name. The law of your state may prohibit other LLCs from using the same business name as yours, but the partnerships and sole proprietorship are not covered by this.
Moreover, businesses operating in other states will not be affected by this. As a result, there is a possibility that another business in a different state may use the same name as your business thus, creating confusion to the clients.
The biggest benefit that you could get from trademark registration is the exclusive rights to the words, symbols, and names that distinguish your business from others. Once you have done this, no other business in the whole nation may use your trade name.
Doing so will be treated as an infringement of your trademark and you may choose to act legally on the matter.
Business Name Protection
You have the claim over your business name inside of your state after its registration, but it is a different story if we are going to discuss about other states. If you want a nationwide protection, it would be wise to register for a federal trademark.
A business attorney can explain and guide you regarding all the paperwork.
Trademark registration is available in two options. You may either apply for a federal trademark or a state trademark.
Due to the difference in scope, the federal trademark is more expensive and you have to register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The state trademark on the other hand will benefit mostly those businesses in a state where trade name registration is not required.
How to Qualify for Trademark Registration
At this point, you must already recognize that trade name protection has many aspects and that trademark registration at the USPTO is the best choice for you if your business will have transactions in different states or in the whole country.
As exclusive rights are involved here, there are certain criteria that you need to meet.
Achieving exclusive rights over some words and symbols regarding your business is not as easy as submitting a name with your business name on it.
Why is it that some business owners take a long time before finally deciding on their trade name?
The task of thinking words or a phrase that would exactly describe your business while catching the attention of the probable clients is a difficult task.
Choosing a common name is a guarantee that you will not pass the criteria for trademark registration.
Take for an instance that your business name is JJJ Furniture. The word furniture is common and you cannot claim an exclusive right over it because many people are using that word.
You may add some descriptive words to make it more specific and different from the rest. However, there is still the danger that it will not pass.
For example, changing JJJ Furniture into JJJ Environmental-Friendly Furniture is still not a guarantee that it will already pass for a trademark. The word furniture is very common and environmental friendly things are all over the world today.
In cases of infringement, it would be difficult to defend your right over those words because anyone could have thought about it. The best way in knowing the twists and turns in trademark registration would be to consult a business lawyer who will guide you in every step.
At the bottom-line, your trademark must be something that you can totally own.
However, be careful of your advertisements as you might incite people to use your trademark instead of the product or service that you are promoting. When this happens, your trademark will become a household name and you will lose the exclusive rights over it.
Did you know that Zipper actually used to be a trademark?
How Can a Business Lawyer Help My Business?
Lawyers specializing in dealing with business-related matters are not only for big multinational companies who have so much legal concerns on their hands. Even small businesses will benefit from the help of a business attorney.
At the very onset of your business, an attorney will have a big part in drafting the contracts that you need. Asking the help of a professional is an assurance that you are protecting the interest of all the parties who are involved in the contract.
This will prevent possible disputes in the future. Lawyers are very capable of explaining the details to avoid misunderstanding, which is beneficial to your business. Despite the fact that contract templates are available for free on the internet, consulting a professional in the field is still way better.
The templates that you may find are generic or tailored to a specific state and might overlook an important detail in your state.
Are you willing to risk your business’ future just to save a few dollars?
In fact, even before the start of the business operation, you can already ask a lawyer’s help to make sure that you are on the right track. Helping you understand the different business structures will play a big role in your business venture.
Most of all, your trade name that serves as the identity of your business should be duly protected so that you will have all the rights on the fruits of your bright intellect and hard work. Knowing the details about business name protection might come handy in the future in the event that you make it big and there is an infringement on your trademark.
Your lawyer will seamlessly explain to you all the information that you need to know about how you could achieve the protection of you business name to the fullest. He will assist you every step of the way until it is sure that you have the best for you.
Keeping a close working relationship with an attorney even after you have established your business is good because a lawyer’s part in businesses is not only during the start or the middle. Their help and opinion is needed from time to time, even if your business is already successful.
It is not difficult to find a reliable business lawyer like Sam Mollaei, Esq.
Do not hesitate to grab his free consultation to ease your worries away!
Contact Sam Mollaei, Esq., business lawyer, at [email protected] or by phone at (818) 925-0002.