Trademark and Trade Name: Know the Difference

By September 26, 2013Business Law

As a business, it is crucial that you know the legal differences between a trademark and a trade name. Many people fail to draw a distinction between these two entities.

Failure to know the difference between a trademark and a trade name can create confusion, or worse, get you into legal trouble. In an effort to help prevent any issues down the line, we have summarized the main differences.

trademark, trade nameTrademark

A trademark refers to a distinctive sign that identifies services and goods provided or produced by a specific enterprise or person. To keep things simple, associate trademark with a company’s brand — think names, words, slogans, symbols, and design.

When Should you Get a Trademark?

Deciding to register a trademark depends on an individual business’ discretion. You can register a trademark on both a state and federal level. Although both are not always required, they are highly recommended.

Having a registered trademark assures that you have exclusive use, preventing anyone else from using your trademark. How is done? The government serves to provide protection from any infringement or liability issues that might surface at a later date. Getting a trademark is a simple way to protect some of the things that make your business unique. Once you are ready to get a trademark, you can hire an intellectual property lawyer to register a trademark on your business’ behalf . You can also apply for the trademark registration personally.

Trade Name

As a business, it is important that you don’t confuse a trademark with a trade name. A trade name refers to a name that is very different from the name of your partner, your personal name, the name of your Limited Liability Company, or corporation that is officially registered. Just as the name suggests, a trade name is the name of your business. Things such as billing, tax filing, and formal identification are some of the issues that fall under the trade name of the company.

Know the Limits of a Trade Name

A business may get into trouble by relying solely on a trade name. This is because there are some businesses that assume a registered trade name gives them the freedom and right to use that name for any business-related purpose. However, in the event that a business uses its trade name in identifying its services and products, the trade name is serving the function of the trademark, hence there must be a consideration of the trademark law. A business is only legally allowed to use its trade name as a trademark to the limit of not infringing upon any existing trademarks.

If your trade name is very similar to a registered trademark, you may cause customer confusion. In the event that this happens, you may have to change your trade name and incur a considerable amount of expense in advertising to correct the mistake. Additionally, you might also end up paying for the lost profits of the original trademark holder. How can you avoid this from happening to your business? The best way to protect your business is to establish a good relationship with a skilled and experienced trademark attorney who will be able to assist you in this crucial process.

Protect your Business with a Registered Trademark or Trade Name Today

What sounds similar in name actually has very different legal implications in the business world. Because of this, it is crucial that you make the distinction between these two terms. Failure to do so can result in some serious legal consequences. When it doubt, play it safe and seek legal counsel.

For information about how Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville and Larson Law Firm can help you with trademark or trade name-related needs, contact us at (414) 273-1144.

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