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Trademarking Business Names

A company name may be the single most valuable asset a given company has.  It may be worth more than the company’s equipment, inventory, even real estate.  For many companies, the company name appears on or within the following:

  • letterhead,
  • business cards,
  • contracts,
  • building signage,
  • social media handles,
  • hashtags,
  • website description meta tags,
  • blog articles,
  • email accounts,Image of an artistic company name seeking trademark registration
  • black and white or color brochures,
  • marketing materials,
  • clothing or t-shirts,
  • directory listings,
  • designs or logos,
  • stationery and address labels,
  • organizational documents,
  • secretary of state database(s), and
  • domain name(s).

That’s a long list, and a good percentage of companies could create a longer one!  It becomes easy to understand the importance of a good company name.

In modern times, the heavy reliance on search engines and the utility of being found via certain search terms does not necessitate explanation.  Illustrating this concept to someone back in 1925, however, might be next to impossible (though perhaps interesting to watch).  Even back in 1925, before Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and DuckDuckGo influenced our daily lives, it was understood that a trademark may be the most valuable asset of a given business.  “A trade-mark is an asset—an integral part of the goodwill of a business.  Frequently it is the most valuable single asset in the business.”  William Evarts Richards & Oscar Arnold Geier,  Trade-marks, Trade-names, Unfair Competition 6 (Richards & Geier) (1925).  One could only imagine how much more emphatic these authors would be in their belief, nearly one-hundred years later, that a trademark is the most valuable single asset a business has.  Certainly others have picked up where these authors left off.  “A great name can be the most valuable asset of a company.  A name deserves a lot of attention and appropriate protective measures, such as federal registration and proper usage.”  Henri J.A. Charmasson & John Buchaca, Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks For Dummies (Wiley) (2009).

Indeed, the Internet has shrunk the world.  What might have been only visible in 1925 to people in the immediate geographical vicinity, a “local” business today is capable of being found across the state, country, and even world.  This creates tremendous opportunity for small businesses, but it also lays a trap for the unwary.  “Today—because of the Internet—the concept of local is rapidly disappearing…Doing business online [takes]…your business from local to national and…[therefore] there are new rights and responsibilities.”  Stephen Fishman, Trademark: Legal Care for Your Business & Product Name (NOLO) (2016).  “[K]nowledge of trademarks (or branding, as it is fashionably known these days) has become a prerequisite for operating a business.”  Id.  This benefit and burden caused by the Internet is a double-edged sword, clearing the way for small businesses to be seen across jurisdictional boundaries but also inflicting great harm upon its careless users.

The selection of a company name cuts both ways.  The wrong choice can be a major source of expense, frustration, and lost productivity.  “When a corporate name runs into trademark trouble, the consequences are a massive rebranding effort.”  Carol Chadirjian, The Business of Trademarks: A Practical Guide to Trademark Management for Attorneys and Paralegals 12 (Universal-Publishers) (2018).  Rebranding is a significant undertaking.  Forced rebranding, frequently caused by trademark litigation, is even worse.  It adds attorneys’ fees, litigation expenses, the stress of conflict, and perhaps even settlement or judgment monies to the equation.

If a company’s name is the most valuable asset it has, or even just one of many valuable company assets, then it merits—at the minimum—proper selection and protection.  This principle applies to small businesses as well as medium-sized and large ones.

This law firm has experience with creating, registering, and protecting company names.  If you would like to make an appointment with Kincaid Business & Entrepreneurial Law, LLC ® regarding a company name, whether in connection with a search and clearance process, a trademark application, or handling a trademark infringement case, please feel free to conveniently schedule with us here.  You may also wish to read more about intellectual property law and trademark law on our website.