To Trademark or Not to Trademark Your Small Business Name

Although a trademark can be an essential element of your small business assets, is it really necessary?  I have clients that get advice from people that ends up to be all over the map.  The reality is that if you want to file for a trademark, sooner is typically better than later.  This is for the simple fact that if you wait until your brand becomes wildly popular before perfecting your mark, you may be in a defensive position prior to getting this process going.

So, before you can determine if you want to file for a trademark, you should determine what your small business name will be.  Think of three or four names that you could name your small business.  Then consider doing each of the following for each of the three or four small business names you came up with:

1. Search Google: Check to see if the name your are interested comes up and, if so, what is the reference it came up for?

2. Search the Secretary of State’s business directory:  Determine if another business is using the name you are interested in using for your small business.

3. Search Your county Recorder’s Office business directory:  This can be done either at the Recorder’s office or online.  Rule out the possibility that another business in your county is using the small business name you are interested in.

4. Search a Domain Name provider:  Search for the domain name for the names you are interested in using , if the domain name (that’s is available you would be wise to purchase it.  People are searching all the time for various names so if it’s available now purchase it because when you go back to buy it later, it may be taken.  Just think of it as an investment in your small business.

You should complete each of the above steps for each name you have decided is interesting for your small business before you start your branding and definitely before you think about a trademark because having this information in your back pocket will provide much of the groundwork that needs to be done prior to perfecting your mark.

If, based on all of the above, the name you have picked is still available, then you can apply to register with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (or obtain an attorney’s help.) Once you do so, then you should can using the trademark symbol ™. You can use the “TM” symbol as soon as you are claiming the name in usage but you cannot use the symbol ® until the mark is actually registered.

If you have questions about trademarks, Integrated General Counsel can help you determine your next steps.  If you are ready for a results-driven plan of action, contact us either by telephone at (925) 399-1529, schedule yourself into our calendar for an appointment at a time convenient for you, or complete the Contact Kristen form and we will get back to you.


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