Recently, I’ve had startup clients consult me for registering their business and then encounter a roadblock because their chosen name is not available to be registered as a trademark. But it shouldn’t be a roadblock because business name and brand name are two different concepts. Now this may leave many of you confused. Most entrepreneurs think that their business name is their brand name. In a lot of cases, business names match the brand names. But it is not necessary for your business name to match your brand name.
So let’s understand the differences first.
A business name is a trade name. It is used to open a bank account, file tax returns and for all other legal purposes and documents. It could be a sole proprietorship, a DBA, or registered as an LLC, C corp., S corp. etc. A business is usually registered in the state that you do business in. Some startups and businesses also choose Delaware as their state of incorporation – you can learn more about states of incorporation here. In order to register your business, you will need to do a name availability search in the state where the business is being incorporated. If you also want to use your business name as your brand name, then an extra step is required – trademark search, as described below. An example of a company that uses its business name as its brand name is Under Armour. Under Armour, Inc. is the business name and Under Armour is its brand.
A brand name is the name that consumers identify the products or services of a company with. It is a distinctive name that sets it apart from its competitors offering similar or same products or services. In many cases, the business and brand names are different. An example of this is Apple. Apple, Inc. is the business name, while iPhone, iPad etc. are its brand names. In order to have exclusivity, brand names are registered as trademarks. In order to register a brand name as a trademark, the first step is to determine if it is available to registered as a trademark. A comprehensive trademark search is required to determine availability and to see if it is clear of any conflicts. If it is, it should be registered as a trademark so you can claim exclusive rights to the brand name and enforce your rights against infringers.
So while businesses prefer to use their business names as brand names, it is not always possible or practical. Increasingly, startups who want to go ahead and launch their business so they can start developing their products or services, hire talent for development, and raise some initial funding, opt to register their business name first without doing the trademark clearance search. Once their products or services are somewhat developed and they are getting closer to beta testing, they are ready to register their brand.
At Nupur Shah Law, we help business owners with business name and brand name registrations. We conduct comprehensive searches to determine availability and conflicts so there is no trouble later on. Call us at 646-820- 1366 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am happy to have a complimentary conversation with you on how to secure your rights.