When starting a business, there is often some confusion about the registration of business name, in particular confusion between trade names and trademarks. The terms “trade name” and “trademark” sound similar, but it is important for business owners – especially those just starting businesses – to know the difference. Selecting and registering trade names and trademarks is an important part of establishing a brand presence and recognition in the marketplace for a company and its products, so it’s a process that should be considered carefully.
A trade name is your company’s official name under which it does business. A trademark protects the intellectual property of a business. Trademark may include logos, symbols, words, phrases, slogans, or other designs that help customers identify your company. Trademark can also be associated with your trade name. When consumers look for products and services, they often rely on the trademarks to find the items they want. An important reason to distinguish between trade names and trademarks is that if a business starts to use its trade name to identify products and services, it could be perceived that the trade name is now functioning as a trademark, which could potentially infringe on existing trademarks.
Registering your company’s trade name is much simpler than registering for a trademark but doesn’t offer the same legal protection. It only serves as the official name of your company. You need to register your company’s trade name with the state registration authority as soon as you decide to incorporate a company. When you do so, your company will gain recognition as a legal entity. The registration process also makes it legal for your company to enter into contracts and participate in other legal forms of business. The practical function of registering a trade name is primarily for administrative and accounting purposes, such as filing taxes, issuing pay to employees, setting up websites and other online presences, advertising, and product packaging, etc. Registration requirements for trade names are really geared more toward making the tax authorities aware of your business than they are toward providing any substantial brand name protection. However, even though registering a trade name does not provide legal protection in the way that registering a trademark does, selecting a trade name should still be done thoughtfully, as it is the initial step in establishing an identity for your company in the marketplace.