03 May 2016

4 Steps to Protect Your Business Name

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Your brand is everything … your reputation, your recognition value for your customers, your product, image, service, etc.

So how do you protect your brand and business if a competitor sets up a company that is similar, or even identical to yours? There are 5 steps you should think about to help ensure that your good name will stay that way!

Step 1: Form and File a Business Entity
One of the best ways to protect your business name is to form a business entity (LLC or Corp) and file the entity in your state. No state will allow two businesses with the same name to be filed, and some states won’t allow even similar names. Before getting your heart set on a name, check business name availability. Many states allow you to search for business names online. You should also consider a national search just in case you will be doing business outside of your state.

Step 2: File a DBA or Register Your Business Name
Some organizations have one official name and then a “trade name” they use for their business. For Instance, Tom Smith Pool Cleaning, LLC might have a shop called The Pool Whisperer. That trade name is often called a DBA, which is short for “doing business as.” Registering a DBA lets people know who owns the business and creates a public record of your use of your business name.

Step 3: Trademarks
You can trademark your business name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for nationwide protection if you meet two criteria:
• The name must be distinctive
• It must not cause confusion with other registered trademarks.

Note that while copyrights protect original works of authorship, names and business names are not considered works of authorship and are not eligible for copyright protection.

Step 4: Secure Your Online Identity
You can protect your business name online by registering it as a domain name. That’s the address you type into your internet browser. So www.pouloslawfirm.com is a domain name. Even if you don’t plan on creating a website immediately, buy the name before someone else does. Generally, original names should cost between $8 – $10 to reserve each year. You might consider buying variations on your domain name as well to cover all the bases. So pouloslawfirm.net, or pouloslawfirm.info, for example, are viable options. In addition, register social media accounts under your business name to prevent someone else from establishing a Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or other account with your business name.

If you are concerned that you might be treading on another name, you may want to consider an attorney who specialized in this area.

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