What's In A Name? How To Protect Your Company's Name From Copycats

Your brand -- your company's name and identity -- really is your business. Brand identity and reputation are everything when it comes to successful marketing.

That's why it's so important to make sure that you do everything you can to protect it. Otherwise, someone else could latch onto your identity using a similar (or the same) name and either ride on your success or destroy your reputation. This is what every new entrepreneur needs to know about legally protecting a company's name.

The Difference Between Registering A Name And Trademarking It

When you first get ready to do business, you'll put in an application with the state to make sure that your proposed name isn't already in use somewhere else in the state. The states each have their own criteria for what's acceptable when it comes to how closely one name can resemble another -- but close duplicates aren't usually allowed. For example, if you want to operate a business named "Rick's Restaurant," you probably won't be able to do it if your state already has a "Ricky's Restaurante." There's too much potential for confusion.

Registering your company name only protects you from copycats, however, inside your own state. You can't do a thing about a "Rick's Restaurant" in Virginia, for example, if you're registered in Georgia. While that might not be a big deal if you're depending on local business only, it could become a serious problem if you ever evolve into a chain with franchises. It's also a big problem for businesses that rely on national sales.

If you need to protect your company name on a national level, that's what a trademark provides. Federal trademarking gives you the ability to block anyone else in the U.S. from using the same business name that you're using.

The Benefits Of A Carefully Researched Company Name And Trademark

It does take a lot of time-consuming (and sometimes costly) research to make certain that your proposed business name isn't already trademarked. The more unique your name, the less likely that you'll run into a problem (which probably explains how some companies got their handles).

The benefits of a trademark in today's world, however, are huge. For one thing, you can challenge someone else's right to operate a website with a domain name that's the same as your company's. You can also potentially block someone from usurping your business name on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and more. Given the importance of social media to marketing these days, that can make the time and expense of trademarking your company name entirely worth it.

For more information on how you go about trademarking a business name, talk to a law office like Lingbeck Law Office.