The name you select for your business or other organization can become a valuable asset, an unexpected liability or a valuable asset for a competitor. Avoiding liability and protecting your name or logo is generally not expensive or difficult, but the problems that can arise from trademark infringement or a competitor’s use of your name and logo can be.
When selecting a name for your business, legal and business factors should be considered. A name that infringes on the name, trademark or service mark of another business can cause you to incur the cost and expense of changing your name, advertising, phone listings, stationary, signage and packaging, as well as forfeit any profits earned from your alleged infringement. Additionally, conducting business under an improper name could subject you to personal liability for your business’s debts, consumer fraud suits, regulatory enforcement actions and other claims.
You should register any business name, alias, trademark, trade name or service mark to protect your intellectual property and disclose your official business name. Unless you are Xerox, Kodak or IBM, we recommend that all formal documents, correspondence and contracts reflect the official business name, along with the business name you may use. When the business logo or trademark is on the top of the stationary, the official corporate name should be at the bottom with the address and other information.
Selecting a name that is protectable by trademark requires that the name be distinctive and not merely descriptive of what your business does, identifying and distinguishing your business from its competitors. Names that merely describe what you do, where you do it, or how well you do it are often too generic to be protectable trademarks. While TCBY constitutes a trademark, Chicago’s Best Accounting Firm probably does not. The more unique, fanciful or arbitrary the name, the more protectable it is as a trademark. Xerox, IBM and Kodak are all trademarks that are unique to the particular business and not merely descriptive of their products and services.
The fact that another business or organization may have similar words in its trademark may not prevent you from using those words as a trademark or service mark, since federal trademark registration recognizes over 40 different classifications of businesses for trademark purposes, because confusion does not result from a delivery service, United Parcel, and a charitable organization, United Way, both using “United” in their names
At Brooks, Tarulis, Schaffer & Tibble, LLC we have experience in assisting you in name selection and protection for your business. We also incorporate, obtain business alias and protect business names, trademarks and service marks. If we can assist you in these matters, please contact me.