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Why Trademark Your Business Name?

Trademarking your business name might seem like an added cost and a confusing process, but it’s well worth the time and money.

Like “putting a ring on it”, registering your business name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is one of the few ways to legally mark your territory.

Once a registration is accepted, your legal right is for life provided you renew your registration every 10 years.

While the most simple reason you may want to trademark your business name is to prevent others from using it, below I breakdown the less obvious reasons you should not delay in filing.

Keep Competitors Off Your Turf

When you Google your business, whether you show up on the first page depends on a lot of factors. From on-page SEO to backlinks, SEO is like baking a cake, you need a specific set of ingredients in just the right mix.

What if, one day you’re searching for your business and you find you’re no longer ranking in the top spots on Google or, worse yet, you’ve been pushed onto the second or third page of results.

At the top spot is a business with an identical name and, after poking around on their website and social media pages, you realize they’re a direct competitor offering the same or similar products or services.

Most concerning, when your customers or clients type in your name, they’re met with a business that’s not you!

If your business name is already protected with a USPTO registration, the competitor cannot make use of your name without your permission and you can immediately take action by asserting your ownership rights.

The ultimate goal: have your competitor or copycat cease and desist using your name, which means modifying their name to something that is not substantially similar to yours.

It’s important to keep in mind, your ownership rights are not limited to where you live. In my practice, I’ve assisted my clients with cease and desist letters in various situations across state lines and across platforms (from brick and mortar businesses utilizing an identical name to copycat social media accounts). You can even assert your rights against foreign businesses, but enforcement may not be as successful due to the legal constraints involved in forcing a foreign company to comply with U.S. law.

Protect Your Brand

Businesses with an online presence always put themselves at risk of having their content stolen or copied by others. One recurring issue is the creation of fake or copycat social media accounts.

While some businesses find these copycats to be a convenient, free way to have additional marketing, for many other businesses, it can pose a serious risk to their reputation.

If the fake account amasses a significant following, you might have clients or customers who contact the fake account instead of you. This can impact your ability to adequately handle customer support or prevent you from taking advantage of new business opportunities.

On a more serious level, if the social media account is able to send its followers or users to a third-party website that defrauds your potential customers, you could be caught. This might sound like a stretch, but there’s plenty of instances in which individuals have their Instagram photos copied and re-posted on a profile that looks and feels just like their own.

Imagine your business and livelihood depends on your personal brand and image — such as a business coach. Getting catfished and having potential customers follow the wrong “you” is the last thing you want.

While you can certainly message the look-alike and request they take down their account, getting the individual to comply is easier when you have an established right to your business name (and related brand).

In fact, every social media platform takes copyright infringement very seriously. If you look at the terms and conditions of each social media website, you will find each platform specifically requires its users to not intentionally misappropriate the intellectual property of others along with specific instructions for reporting such misuse.

While it’s true that social media platforms go to great lengths to help protect creators and their original content, those platforms are even more eager to take swift action you have a bonafide trademark infringement claim. For this reason, having a registered trademark can be a powerful tool when attempting to enforce your rights with third-party service providers.

Establish a More Robust Legal Right

Trademark rights are not entirely black and white. The first person to use a name technically holds the ownership rights, however, the first person to file with the USPTO is given priority in their registration system. You’re probably wondering what this means.

More specifically, you’re put in a secondary, defensive position. You must challenge the individual who was first to file in order to try and prevent their registration from being successfully granted.

Let’s say I’ve owned a dive shop for 15 years called “black beard diving”, but I’ve never trademarked the name. One day, a friend of mine sends me a link to a dive shop in a neighboring city with the exact same name.

In a panic, I hire an attorney to have them file a registration application with the USPTO only to find the competitor dive shop has already filed.

If I’m lucky, the registration is not yet final and, instead, is in the publication period, which is a 30-day window in which I would have the opportunity to challenge the application. If I’m unlucky, the publication period has passed and the registration is final. My only option then is to file an action to terminate the competitor’s registration, which is more difficult.

For these reasons, I think the best choice you can make with regard to your business name is to file — and file early on.

Not every copycat has malicious intent. Sometimes, it’s just another person creating a business just like yours and, by happenstance, with the same name. Just like in any free market, it’s the first to cross the finish line who wins the race. If you’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into building the business of your dreams, why wouldn’t you make the small investment to protect your future livelihood?

Summary

Registering for a trademark is a smart way to protect what’s yours. It helps you maintain the space you’ve created online through SEO and safeguard other measures you’ve taken to be found by potential customers and clients (digitally and in real life). It also reduces the chance that warm leads looking for you accidentally give their business to your competitor.

Branding has now become extremely powerful in the marketing world and part of preserving your brand should include registering as many aspects of your business’s brand as possible.

At Nocturnal Legal, not only do we help you file your application with the USPTO, but we keep track of each registered trademark to remind you when it’s time to renew so it’s one less thing you need to worry about.

Paloma Goggins - Business Lawyer in Phoenix, Arizona
Paloma Goggins is an experienced business attorney specializing in helping business owners buy or sell a business

I’m Paloma

I’m experienced business attorney licensed to practice in Arizona and Wisconsin. My client-first philosophy allows us to collaborate turning skills, passions, and knowledge into the ultimate form of change-making. Let’s innovate together.