How to Trademark a Business Name

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Do you need a Trademark?

You don’t necessarily require trademark for your business to start trading, however, it is always a good idea to trademark your business name for one simple reason.

Without a trademark your business name isn’t protected. What that means is that other people can use a similar (or even the exact same) name to benefit themselves from your brand, in doing this they could poach business from you which could be beneficial for them and drastically bad for you. But once you’ve registered your trademark, this effectively stops other people from using that same name protecting not just your business name, but your brand.

The Difference between a Patent, Trademark and Copyright

These three terms each define an area of intellectual property which a pretty complex field. So, it’s important to understand what each of these are so that you can properly and effectively protect your business interests.

1) Trademark

What is it for?

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.

Why would you use one?

A trademark provides legal rights to the distinguishing feature of your business identity. It is proof of ownership and allows the owner to sue people in case of infringement on those rights. A trademark is valid for an unlimited period of time however you will need to renew it every 10 years or so.

2) Copyright

What is it for?

A copyright protects creative rights. For example, a copyright can be sought by authors, choreographers, architects etc. You can’t copyright a generic idea, it has to the a specific tangible form. For example, you couldn’t copyright an idea for a screenplay, but you can copyright the screenplay once it’s written.

Why do you need one?

Like a trademark a copyright provides legal evidence of ownership of the creative work.
A person can take another to court if they believe they have infringed on the copyright. A copyright is valid for a lifetime and doesn’t need renewing at all.

3) Patent

What is it for?

Patents are for new inventions and designs. For example, if you invented a new device to collect leaves off a lawn you would file for a patent to protect that design from intellectual theft. However, the patent would not protect the idea. So someone else could quite legally create a different machine that collects leaves as long it worked in a different way. In short a patent protects inventions with a new or improved function.

Why do you need one?

A patent stops people from, making or selling the protected invention and lasts for 20 years. It can’t be renewed. It provides the legal ownership of that invention, and like a trademark or copyright you can sue people if they do copy your design.

Each of these is distinct and protects a different aspect of intellectual property rights. Sometimes a product can some under one or more of these intellectual rights though. For example, Spotify, the name of the company comes under a trademark, the code to their software comes under copyright and the functional expression of their software would be protected under a patent.

Registering a Trademark

An International Trademark

If your business extends to Europe for example, you can obtain a trademark that covers all European countries. You do this through the EUIPO. You can register for your Trademark fairly easily online.

Other countries will either require you to get a trademark by registering with each individual local government. Alternatively you can get an INternationally recognised trademark by registering your trademark in countries that have signed up to an agreement called ‘The Madrid Protocol’.

‘The Madrid Protocol’ 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.

It is important to note that you will only get the protection and benefits of your trademark from the countries where your trademark is registered.

Trademark for Individual Countries – USA

You can register your trademark for individual countries with the local Government controlled registration. For example, in the US you 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.

Conclusion

Registering your intellectual property can get complicated and it’s essential that you get it right from the get go so that you avoid any possible issues down the line which could have serious detrimental effects to your business.

If you are unsure at all, seek professional legal advice to ensure that you get it right first time.