Trade Names vs. Trademark
Trademarks and Trade Names are both useful tools for developing and marketing your business.
A trade name, also known as a “DBA” or “doing business as” name, is a unique name that your business goes by that is different from its legally registered name. They are a sort of nickname for your business.
Tradenames can help with marketing your business, clarify what your business does, and offers flexibility when you run multiple businesses in different markets.
A business owner registers their trade name with the Arizona Secretary of State. Registering a trade name grants the business owner exclusive use of the name. However, they do expire and must be renewed every 5 years.
Trademarks are a distinctive mark or symbol for your business. This could be a logo, a stylized version of your business name, or the business name itself. They can also be a slogan, a unique word, or even a distinctive color, really anything that is unique to your business. Trademarks are a powerful tool to market your business and build a brand identity. They also offer legal protection against copycats. Trademarks are everywhere. The Apple logo, Nike’s “Just do it” slogan and the distinctive brown of UPS are all trademarked.
A trademark can be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office which grants nationwide protection. The federal registration process is more complicated than state registration but may be worth it if your business operates nationally or might in the future.
If someone else were to use your trademark without your permission, you can to pursue them for trademark infringement. Registering a trademark may also protect you from someone who registers a similar trademark if that mark would likely confuse customers. For example, if you trademark a stylish logo for your winter clothing business, “Alpine Clothing,” and a competitor used that logo or one with a minor change such as changing the name to “Alpine Clothing Inc.” you could take legal action for trademark infringement.
Like a trade name, a trademark must be unique. It’s important to research already registered trademarks to make sure that your proposed trademark isn’t so similar to another that it could confuse customers.
Additionally, like trade names, trademarks expire and must be renewed. However, they last longer than trade names and expire after 10 years unless they are renewed.
Which one is right for me?
Which one is right for you? Like most things, it depends. Here are some quick bits of information that can help you decide. Trade names and trademarks offer their own set of benefits and are often used together.
- A trade name might be all you need if your business doesn’t use any distinctive logo or graphics in your advertising. They are simply another name for your business. They can be paired with a trademark if you have a logo that uses your trade name.
- Trademarks cover a much larger range of symbols and offer different legal protections compared to a trade name. If your business has a distinctive logo, slogan, font, or other symbols a trademark might be right for you. Trade names are just a business name.
- Trademarks allow you to take infringers to court while a trade name mostly protects against another company registering the same name in Arizona.
- Trademarks, if registered with both Arizona’s government and the federal government, can offer protection nationwide while a trade name is only protected in Arizona.
- Trademarks can be a great tool to build your business. They put everyone in Arizona on notice that your logo, slogan, or other symbol is yours and can help you build brand awareness.
Not sure if a trademark is right for your business or have other questions? Contact Windrose Law Center PLC at 602-457-1846.