Q&A: Protecting Your Name and Logo

By Jeff WuorioBusiness on Main

Question: What would I need to do to reserve a company name or logo so it’s protected and no one else can use the name?

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Answer: This really breaks down to two questions, says Aaron Messing of Olender Feldman in Union, New Jersey, who focuses his practice in the areas of corporate, technology, e-commerce, Internet and privacy law, representing entrepreneurs and closely held businesses in a variety of industries and counseling the firm’s clients in all stages of their business- and corporate-related matters. The question first addresses how to reserve a company name or logo. The second deals with protecting them as a trademark.

First question. To reserve your company name, you need to do a name-availability search. Generally, this is done with the Secretary of State of the state in which you want to incorporate. This search can often be done online. If your name’s available, you can register it with that particular state.

Next, from a trademark protection standpoint, the name can be checked against preexisting applications or registrations on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website (www.uspto.gov). This will give you a preliminary indication of availability, although many companies use an attorney to evaluate the results and the potential of being sued for trademark infringement when there’s a close match.

The best way to protect a company name or logo is to register your assets with the federal patent and trademark office. This provides you with a number of rights and protections under the law. Be aware that filing at just the state level doesn’t offer as much protection.

Online trademark registration costs between $275 and $325. You’ll be required to describe the types of goods and services you offer and the date you first used the name or mark. As for logos, you’ll also need to specify whether the mark has been designed specifically for your use.

Here’s an extra tip for businesses active on the Internet. As a rule, don’t register your Web extension, such as .com or .net, with the name. Omitting the domain extension from the trademark application helps prevent other businesses from registering the same name by just tacking on a different extension.

Although registering online is inexpensive and quick — you generally receive a response to your application within a half-year of filing — there are scenarios where using an attorney can be helpful. For one thing, many business owners would rather use a legal professional rather than going it alone on the Internet. Additionally, there are instances when a name or logo is similar enough to another that people might confuse the two. If it’s challenged in any way, it’s good to have an attorney at the ready.