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How to Trademark a Business Name in the US?

How to Trademark a Business Name in the US

How to Trademark a Business Name in the US?

Trademarking a business name in the United States is a crucial step for any entrepreneur looking to safeguard their brand’s identity and exclusive rights in the marketplace. It ensures you have exclusive rights to use the name in commerce, preventing others from using a substantially similar name.  This process not only protects your brand from potential infringement but also enhances your ability to build brand loyalty and recognition. In this article, we will guide you on “How to Trademark a Business Name in the US”  through the essential steps.

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Difference Between Business Names and Trademarks

Before delving into the procedure for trademarking the business name, Understanding the distinctions between business names and trademarks is vital for any entrepreneur or business owner. Here’s a closer look at what differentiates these two critical aspects of business identity:

Business Name

Also known as a trade name, assumed name, fictitious name, or “doing business as” (DBA), a business name is essentially the title under which a company operates and is recognized in business transactions. This name helps to identify and set apart one business entity from others in the operational landscape. Registering a business name through a state’s Secretary of State office is a basic formality that allows a company to use that name for business dealings and banking.


A trademark goes further by identifying the source of goods or services. It can be a word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these that distinguishes the goods or services of one entity from those of others. Trademarks signal the source of goods or services and protect brand identity from being used in unauthorized ways, thus preventing confusion or deception among consumers.

  • It’s important to recognize that registering a business name does not equate to trademark protection. Although a business name registration secures your right to use that name, it does not prevent others from using similar names that might confuse your customers.
  • Clearing the desired business name for trademark use, which involves checking for potential conflicts with existing trademarks, is crucial to ensuring exclusive use and safeguarding against infringement.

In summary, while a business name establishes your business’s identity within the state, a trademark protects your business’s brand identity across the marketplace.

Guidelines for Choosing a Trademarkable Business Name

When selecting a business name that you intend to trademark, it is important to consider its distinctiveness and the likelihood of confusion with existing trademarks. Here’s a detailed guide on choosing a business name that meets the criteria set by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for registration.

Distinctiveness of the Business Name

The USPTO places high importance on the distinctiveness of a business name for trademark registration. Generic or common names, like “Books” or “Shirts,” are not eligible for trademark protection. Similarly, descriptive names, which merely describe the goods or services (e.g., “The Best Cookies”), are generally not trademarkable unless they have acquired secondary meaning. This means that consumers associate the descriptive name specifically with your business through extensive and sustained use.

The most likely to qualify for trademark protection are:

  • Fanciful Names: These are invented words with no prior meaning, such as “Kodak.”
  • Arbitrary Names: Common words used unrelated, such as “Apple” for computers.
  • Suggestive Names: These subtly hint at characteristics of the products or services without directly describing them, like “Greyhound” for bus services.

Avoiding Likelihood of Confusion

A key factor the USPTO considers during registration is whether your chosen business name could be confused with existing trademarks. The office will refuse registration if:

  • Similarity with Existing Marks: Your chosen name is similar to another trademark that is already registered or pending registration.
  • Related Goods or Services: The products or services under the two trademarks are related enough that consumers might believe they come from the same source.

The USPTO ensures that similar trademarks can only be registered if they are for completely unrelated goods or services, which would minimize any potential confusion among consumers.

Benefits of Trademarking a Business Name

Here are several key benefits of obtaining a trademark for your business name:

  • Legal Protection Nationwide: Once you register your trademark, you gain exclusive rights to use your business name across the United States with your products or services. This prevents others from using a name that is confusingly similar to yours within your industry.
  • Clarity for Consumers: A trademark helps prevent customer confusion by distinguishing your business from others in the market.
  • Avoidance of Legal Issues: Without a trademark, your business risks legal disputes if another company in your industry uses a similar or identical name.
  • Attractiveness to Investors: Investors typically look for businesses that have secured their intellectual property rights. A trademarked business name can enhance your credibility and make your business a more attractive investment because it demonstrates that you have firmly established your brand’s identity and legal protection.
  • Brand Building: A trademark does more than protect a name; it plays a significant role in brand building. By associating your trademarked name with consistent and recognizable logos, fonts, and colours, you create a strong brand identity.
  • National Recognition and Protection: Without a trademark, your business name risks being used by others, potentially diluting your brand and confusing your customers. Trademarking ensures that your brand can achieve nationwide recognition and protection, preventing others from capitalizing on your brand’s reputation.

Trademarking your business name is an essential strategy for any serious entrepreneur who wants to secure their business’s future and build a robust brand.

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Trademark Registration for Business Names

When registering a trademark for a business name, it’s essential to understand the options and protections available at both the state and federal levels. Each level of registration serves different purposes and offers varying degrees of protection.

State-Level Trademark Registration

Registering a trademark at the state level can provide basic protection within the specific state where the trademark is registered. This might be sufficient for businesses operating solely within one state and not planning to expand nationally. The process for state registration varies depending on state laws but generally involves a simpler and less costly procedure than federal registration.

Federal Trademark Registration

Federal trademark registration provides the most comprehensive protection for businesses operating across multiple states or online. Managed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), federal trademark registration grants exclusive rights to use the business name nationwide. This level of protection is particularly crucial in today’s digital marketplace, where business operations often transcend state borders.

Click here to know more about Types of US Trademark Registration

How to Trademark Your Business Name?

Registering a trademark for your business name at the federal level involves a systematic process handled by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Federal registration provides extensive protection, including exclusive nationwide trademark use and the ability to bring federal lawsuits against infringers. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to register your business name as a federal trademark:

Step 1: Conduct a Trademark Search

Before applying for a trademark, it’s essential to conduct a thorough trademark search to ensure that the business name is not already used as a registered trademark. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides a free search tool, the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), which can be used to search for existing trademarks.

Step 2:  Uniqueness of Your Business Name

As mentioned above, a business name must be distinctive enough for consumers to readily associate it with the products or services of a specific business to qualify for trademark protection. Generic or overly descriptive names may not be eligible for trademark registration.

  • Identify the Filing Basis: You must determine the basis for filing your trademark application. There are two main bases:
  • Use in Commerce: If you already use the mark in commerce, you can file based on actual use.
  • Intent to Use: If you plan to use the mark in the future but have not yet started, you file based on your intent to use the mark commercially.

The choice affects the documentation required and the overall strategy for registration.

Step 3: Prepare Your Application

When preparing your application, you’ll need to provide:

  • Owner information: Who owns the mark? This can be an individual, corporation, partnership, LLC, etc.
  • Mark information: A clear representation of what you are trademarking, whether a word, logo or a combination of elements.
  • Goods or services description: Provide a detailed description of the goods or services you use or plan to use the mark with, classified according to the USPTO’s Identification of Goods and Services Manual.
  • Specimen of use: If filing based on actual use, you must submit a specimen showing how the mark is used in commerce (e.g., website screenshots, labels, packaging).

Step 4: File Your Application

Submit your application through the USPTO’s online Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). You can choose between TEAS Plus and TEAS Standard applications. TEAS Plus has a lower fee but requires more precise agreement to pre-approved descriptions of goods and services.

Step 5:Respond to USPTO Actions

After filing your application, it will be assigned to an examining attorney at the USPTO. The attorney may issue an “Office Action” if there are issues with your application, such as potential confusion with a prior registered trademark or issues with the description of goods/services. You must respond to these issues within six months to avoid abandoning your application.

Step 6: Publication for Opposition

If the examining attorney approves the application, it will be published in the Official Gazette, a weekly publication of the USPTO. This publication allows the public to oppose the registration if they believe they will be damaged by registering your mark. If an opposition is filed, you may need to engage in proceedings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

Step 7:  Final Trademark Registration

If no opposition is filed or an opposition is overcome, the USPTO will register the trademark. Once registered, the trademark owner receives a registration certificate and can use the registered trademark symbol (®) with the business name.

How Much Does It Cost to Trademark a Business Name?

The cost to trademark a business name in the United States can vary depending on several factors, including the number of classes you need to register and whether you use a lawyer for the registration process. Here are the key costs involved:

  • USPTO Filing Fees: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) charges a filing fee per class of goods or services.
  • Attorney Fees: If you decide to hire an attorney to help with trademark registration, legal fees can significantly increase the total cost.
  • Additional Costs: Resolving any issues with your application, such as oppositions or refusals from the USPTO, can incur additional costs.
  • Maintenance Costs: Once registered, trademarks must be maintained with periodic filings.


Registering a business name as a trademark is a proactive measure that provides substantial legal benefits, including the ability to enforce rights against infringers in federal court. While the process can be intricate and may require the assistance of a legal professional, especially in the case of complications or opposition, the protection it affords is invaluable for any business looking to establish and maintain a strong brand identity in the marketplace.

The trademark experts team at IndiaFilings is equipped to guide you through US trademark registration of your business name in the US.

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