Trademarks vs. Business

Recently, I appeared as a guest on an event called, The Leap: The Pathway to Entrepreneurship.

During my workshop on "Legally protecting your brand," a question was posed: "What's the difference between a business and a trademark." It dunned on me that although these two things seem clear in terms of their differences, it shed light on why so many entrepreneurs leave themselves vulnerable to liability and attacks on their names.

What's the difference?

A trademark protects your name - Your Brand. You can register a trademark in any state at the state level, or you can do it nationally with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Registering nationally provides greater protection because you're signaling to everyone that your name - your brand - is off limits.

However, you are responsible to properly police your brand by issuing proper cease and desists letters, among other things when you see someone infringing upon the mark. When you do this, you ensure the strength of your name is intact.

But, simply registering a name does not mean that you're registered to do business in the state that you reside in.

A business is one that is registered with your state to do business. This means that you've filed a document called "Articles of Formation" (for LLC's) or "Articles of Incorporation" (for Corps) and paid the requisite filing fee. Furthermore, you'd have to ensure that a registered agent is identified at the time of filing.

Registering a business name, does not give you automatic trademark protections. It only ensures that no-one can register a business in your state with the exact name. Thus, to fully protect your name or brand, you'll need to file a trademark registration to do so.

Caveat: Not all names or brands require a trademark. For instance, if you're a writer, the title of your book should be copyrighted with the U.S. Copyright Office. The same goes for art, film and music.

And, you can register a trademark without having a business or register a business without having a trademark.

In all, you should ensure that you take necessary steps to protect your business, your brand and any processes or products your create. If you're having trouble with this, it is our goal to educate you on what type of business entity you should form to maximize your benefits.

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This article is a service of SL DeBarros Law Firm, LLC. We offer a wide array of business legal services and can help you make the wisest business choices throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a Business Protection Start-Up Session or a Business Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.

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