It's important to understand the difference between a company name, logo and brand.
Company Name - words spoken, written, and legal reference to your business. Company name could be the actual legal name of your business or a DBA (doing business as) for your business.
Logo - an unique mark, pictorial mark or type style and/ or color associated with your business name, products or services
Brand - the associations, beliefs, feelings and expectations others have for your product, service or business.
Your brand or reputation is easily one of your company's most valuable assets. Your company name and logo create an identifier or short cut to a set of expectations. In other words, your name and logo "carry" your reputation. To keep your reputation safe and prevent other companies from creating confusion about your brand, it is important to protect it by registering your trademarks with the US government.
It may feel like a small asset when you're just starting out, but trust me, if you build a successful business, your name and logo (the way people identify your brand) will quickly become very valuable. Without your name and logo, how will anybody know about your business? Importantly, should you want to sell your business at some future date, the buyer is going to want assurances of on going rights to the trade marks of the company.
Your Trade Name and Trade Marks
As a sign, graphics and display company, we fabricate and reproduce, in a wide variety of materials and forms, companies' trade marks. We like to know a company has legal rights to reproduce and display those marks. One of the first things a new company usually does, before they even open their doors for business, is establish a name and create a unique identifying mark, logo, color or type style. And it's important too. It is the distinctive name and mark that will set their company apart and allow their company to begin building a reputation for the quality of products and services they deliver.
But one thing we see time and time again are companies that don't take the time to register their trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Surprisingly, even in our own industry, we are amazed to discover multiple companies using the same name or very similar names. Yes these companies operate in different states. But the internet has all but broken down the notion of a "local" business. Your business opportunities can come from anywhere and you don't want confusion when someone is looking for you.
If you’re a new business owner and you want to reduce the chance of having to deal with any future costly trademark disputes, or start over with a new name, it’s highly recommended that you take the time to file an application and register your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Trademark law in general protects a trademark owner’s commercial identity (goodwill, reputation, and investment in advertising) by giving the trademark owner the exclusive right to use the trademark on the type of goods or services associated with the mark.
Is Your Company Name Even Trademark-able?
I'm no lawyer, but this stuff is covered in any Business Law 101 class so I'll just pass it along. The right to use a trade name belongs to the one who first uses it in connection with their business. So before you can claim a trade name or trade mark you need to perform a search to see if that name is already in use. In our state of Washington, the State of Washington Business Licensing Services suggests you begin your search in the following locations:
Search business licenses. If your search result is “No matches were found for your search,” try spelling the name differently or leave out abbreviations or punctuation such as Inc, LLC, etc.
Department of Revenue — All trade names may not be included.
Secretary of State Corporations Registration Data Search — Corporation and limited liability company names.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Commission — Search for federally registered names.
A comprehensive search is technically impossible, as anyone who can prove their use of a given trade name or trade mark prior to your use retains all rights to the trade name or mark. Performing the above search should increase your confidence that you can secure rights to your trade name or mark. (You may also hire a trademark lawyer to provide a more comprehensive search.)
Build your Brand for the Long Term
You Could be More Successful Than You Ever Imagined! And you don't want to jeopardize that success with an unsecured name or mark. Imagine having to start from scratch with a new name - ouch! We design, build and install signs and displays every day. We want those investments to be building toward a better future for our clients, now and in the long term.
Check out this great infographic by secureyourtrademark.com that outlines the important benefits of registering your trade name and marks.
We're Here to Help You Leverage that Asset!
Creating visual representation of brands and businesses is our specialty! We would welcome the opportunity to help you build your brand by attracting business today that allows you to build your reputation for tomorrow. RainMaker Signs specializes in trade shows and event signs, graphics, and displays. We believe great visual communications make great things happen!