Protecting your business name is important. Without protection it’s possible that someone will take the opportunity to create a similar business with a similar name and poach your sales. This would allow them to reap the rewards of all your brand without putting in any of the work. Which would adversely affect your business by either damaging your brand reputation, or directly stealing sales.
So, you know you need to protect your business, and you’ve seen the word ‘copyright’ places and you’re wondering how you get one for your brand and business name.
Simply put, you don’t.
To protect your business name you need a Trademark.
A copyright applies to creative works, for example: music, literature, photography, art, etc. On top of this, you can’t copyright a generic idea, if you had an idea for a novel or play you wouldn’t be able to copyright it until such a time as you had created a tangible asset, ie. until you’d written it.
There may be elements of your business that you want to copyright. If you are a graphic design company for example, you might want to copyright the designs that you use to promote yourself so that competition can’t steal them. You could even apply to copyright your logo.
But when it comes to your name you need a trademark.
Trademark vs. Copyright
You can file a trademark for a name, word, slogan, or even a design. Anything that identifies and distinguishes your business or brand from others, and would thus be detrimental to your business if other people in the same field used it.
A copyright on the other hand protects your creative rights. You use it, as we said before to protect tangible creative works. For example, a copyright can be sought by authors, choreographers, or even architects.
How do you get a Trademark?
There are a few different kinds of trademark that you can seek which depends on the international scope of your business.
Let’s use an example. You are opening a local coffee shop called Dream Beans. You don’t want other people in the area to take your name and benefit from the positive reputation you have built, or tarnish it by offering inferior coffee or services under a similar name. So, to avoid this possible outcome which would be damaging your business, you would register for a Trademark with your countries Government run trademark system. This can usually be done fairly easily online.
In the UK this would be with the Intellectual Property Office. In the US you would register with the United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This gives you the rights to that trademark in that country.
You can use their website to check your trademark availability, check similar trademarks and file for your trademark online. Find out more here.
If your business extends to Europe, you can obtain a trademark that covers all European countries, as long as you first register with one country. You do this through the EUIPO.
Alternatively you can apply to register your trademark in countries that have signed up to the ‘The Madrid Protocol’ agreement. This is controlled by the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation). You can find out who the member countries are and more about how you go about doing this on their website here.
One important thing to note is that your trademark is only protection in the countries in which you’ve registered it.
Registering your intellectual property can be complex, especially if you are attempting to establish a high profile international brand.
If you are in anyway uncertain whether you need a trademark, or how to get one, it’s best to seek legal advice to avoid complications down the line which could be costly and extremely detrimental to your business.