This is Brian Hall, a trademark attorney with Traverse Legal, PLC, a law firm representing small businesses and middle-sized businesses throughout the world in all matters related to trademarks and IP protection. Today, I will be answering the question: What is the difference between a trade name and a trademark?
Let’s start with a trade name. A trade name is the name by which a company does business. So, for example, if you register your trade name in the State of Michigan, you need to make sure that that trade name is, first, available, and then you need to use that trade name followed by the moniker LLC or limited liability company, or Inc. for corporation or whatever type of entity it is. Similarly, you may even register what’s known as an assumed name, or DBA. This is a name which differs from the name you provide with the state upon registration, but may also be registered with the state since that it is the name you go by. So, for example, if your company is Company, LLC, you may go by Company XYZ as your assumed name. Selecting a trade name is not very complicated so long as you ensure that that name is available within the state registry. So, whether you’re registering your business in Delaware, Michigan, Florida or some other state, you can look up to identify whether that trade name is available when you are going to register your company.
A trade name does differ from a trademark. And oftentimes, companies get confused and feel that once they registration their trade name and are doing business that they have protected their trademark as well. However, that is absolutely not true. In order to acquire a trademark, you need to use that mark in commerce, and it has to be a distinctive mark. More often than not, people protect their trademark by filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. And just to be clear, a trademark does differ from a trade name because of those separate registration requirements and separate use requirements in order to establish rights. So, just because you have registered your trade name and are doing business under a name such as an LLC or a corporation, it does not mean that you have properly protected your trademark.
So, it is imperative that companies don’t assume that once they have registered a business name with their state of incorporation that they have unlimited rights to that name. This kind of assumption may lead to claims of trademark infringement from third parties and other unintended consequences. You would be well-served to speak with a trademark attorney to ensure that (1) your trade name is properly registered and used, and then (2) that your trademark, which may correspond to your trade name or be different, is actually used properly and, more often than not, registered with the USPTO in such a way to provide you with the best protection and rights.
Because of the possible complications your company would face in the event that you fail to register your trademark based upon your reliance on your trade name, it is worth speaking to a trademark attorney at the outset of your establishment of your business.
Once again, this has been Brain Hall answering your question: what is the difference between a trade name and trademark. I hope this was helpful for all of you.
You’ve been listening to Trademark Law Radio. Whether you are facing a trademark infringement, licensing, monitoring or trademark registration issue, we have a trademark attorney ready to answer your questions.