What Name Do We Put On The Jersey?
Naming your business is tricky. You may want to hire a company that specializes in this to help you, as you want to make sure that it is a name people will remember, it’s not already in use, will work well in your marketing and graphic design, and won’t be misspelled or mispronounced – or worse, have an unflattering meaning in a different language.
Let’s start with the basics.
A trade name is the official name you use to do business. It is sometimes referred to as a DBA, or “Doing Business As.” A trade name does not provide you any legal protection and other companies may use the same name.
For example, there’s Pandora the jewelry company and Pandora the music streaming company. That said, you don’t want to venture into a legal quagmire by choosing the name Pandora if you’re also going to be selling jewelry or music streaming. That just opens the door to a lawsuit, or at the very least, a nasty letter from a lawyer. And you probably want to stay away from the name Seattle Seahawks unless you want to get flagged for encroachment.
If you use any other name for your company than the name your parents gave you, you need to register it when you fill out your Washington Business License Application. Each trade name is $5 and you can have more than one.
Trade name vs. trademark
A trademark is different from a trade name. A trademark is used to protect a brand name, which can also be your trade name if you are using it to identify products and services. For instance, Coca Cola is both a trademark (the name of the business) and a trade name for a line of products.
If you plan to do business only in Washington State, you can file your trademark with the Secretary of State. If your business will be regional or national, you may want to register it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This is something that should be handled by an intellectual property or trademark attorney, as the process can be cumbersome and exacting.
Note that a federal trademark can trump a state trademark in legal proceedings, so you may want to consider getting federal protection from the get-go, just in case your business grows beyond state lines. It will also keep you from running afoul of other companies who have federal trademarks for a particular name. You can perform an initial trademark and trade name search here.
As you can see, naming a business isn’t as simple as it may look in the movies. You need to capture the essence of your business in an easy to remember name that is descriptive but catchy, original but not so much so that people can’t quickly get what the name of the business is and what you’re selling. And perhaps just as important, the name of your business needs to be able to grow with you as you expand and perhaps even diversify.
Our Entrepreneur Academy covers trade names, trademarks and other intellectual property in greater detail in Lesson 8.
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