In this episode, Melissa reached out and asked:
Should a business name always be trademarked, or is owning it as an LLC sufficient? I’ve always been confused by this!
Let’s dive into it!
In this episode, you’ll hear…
- The difference between a trademark and LLC
- What protections a trademark offers your business name
- Cases when you trademarking your business name may not be possible
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What’s the difference between a trademark and an LLC?
A business name can be trademarked (see note below), and owning an LLC (aka registering your business with that name as an LLC) would NOT be sufficient protection.
The only thing that registering your business does (name wise!) is prevent someone else in that state from registering a business of the same name.
Technically speaking you might have common law trademark rights to your business name, in any of the states you’ve sold products/services in. But that can be tough to enforce (totally possible, but expensive).
Trademarking, on the other hand, would be a way to protect the name nationally. However, not all business names are trademark-able.
When can I trademark my business name?
Generally speaking, you couldn’t register your business name if your business is named in your name only (ie Sarah Smith LLC. Trademark law says that’s too “descriptive”).
(There’s a whole long legal story about why people like Kim Kardashian have been able to trademark their names. You have to establish secondary meaning in your name, usually via advertising and marketing).
You’d also want to make sure your business name doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s trademark. That’s why I always recommend searching the USPTO database when picking a business name, not just relying on your state’s name search function.
Hope this helps! As always, if you have a question you need answered – you can submit it using the link below.
Sam Vander Wielen: Hey there. It’s Sam Vander Wielen, and welcome back to another episode of On Your Terms. Today, we are talking all about whether you should be trademarking your business name. I’m really excited to dive into this topic with you today.
I also have to tell you before we get started that you only have a few days left to register for my live copycats workshop. So, I’m hosting a live workshop to teach you what to do if copycats steal your content and how to make sure that you’re not accidentally the copycat yourself. I’ll teach you how to legally share other people’s content. It’s going to be a live 60-minute training, plus a live Q&A with me. You can sign up using the link in the show notes down below. And you can also use coupon code Copycat25 at checkout to save $25 off your registration.
Make sure you sign up even if you can’t attend live because you are going to get the replay and you can watch the replay as many times as you need. You’ll have unlimited access to it. There’s not any sort of time limit or anything like that. Plus, spots are limited, so you’re going to want to sign up really, really soon. So, you make sure you secure your spot to this. It’s really a popular training that I offer, and I cannot wait to see you there.
Okay. Let’s get to today’s question. So, Melissa asked, “Should a business name always be trademarked or is it owning it as an LLC that’s sufficient? I’ve always been confused by this.” So, this is such a good question, Melissa. I’m so glad that you submitted it.
By the way, if you have a legal question like Melissa, you can submit it using the link in the show notes. I love answering your legal questions here every single Thursday.
So, a business name can be trademarked, but I’ll talk about that more in a sec. And owning an LLC, aka registering your business in your state with your business name as an LLC, is not sufficient protection for your business’s name itself. So, they’re kind of two different things.
The only thing that registering your business does name-wise is prevent somebody else in that state from registering a business of the same name. So, technically speaking, you might have common law trademark rights in your business name in any of the states that you’ve sold your products or your services in, but that can be really tough to enforce. It’s totally possible, but very expensive and it can, ultimately, not be successful as well.
Trademarking, on the other hand, is a way to protect your business’s name nationally. So, when we register our business’s name, it keeps anybody else in our state from registering a business of the same name. It doesn’t block people in other states from registering a business of the same name. Trademarking, though, would. However, not all business names are trademarkable.
So, for example, generally speaking, you can’t really register your business name if your business name is your name. So, for example, if your name is Sarah Smith and you have Sarah Smith LLC, trademark law is going to say that that name is just too generic, too descriptive.
There’s a whole long legal story about why and how people, like Kim Kardashian, have been able to trademark their names. You have to establish secondary meaning in your name, usually via advertising and marketing, being a major celebrity like Kim Kardashian.
You’d also, though, want to make sure that your business name doesn’t infringe on somebody else’s trademark. That’s why I always recommend searching the uspto.gov database when picking a business name and not just relying on your state’s name search function.
So, a lot of times what I see with people who come into the Ultimate Bundle who did this stuff before they bought the Ultimate Bundle, they thought that because the business name was available in their state that that meant that it was fair game. But they don’t know how to do a thorough name search on lots of different platforms, which is one of the very first trainings that you get access to inside of my Ultimate Bundle, where I teach you how to properly form the business, but I also teach you things like how to name stuff, including not just your business, but names of your programs and names of your products, all of that.
So, I hope that this was helpful in breaking down whether or not you have to trademark your business name. I also hope that I’ll see you at my April 25th live copycats workshop. Make sure you use that coupon code, Copycat25, at checkout to save $25 off as a thanks for listening to On Your Terms. I’m so glad that you’re here and I can’t wait to chat with you next week.
Thanks so much for listening to the On Your Terms Podcast. Make sure to follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. You can also check out all of our podcast episodes, show notes, links, and more at samvanderwielen.com/podcast. You can learn more about legally protecting your business and take my free legal workshop, Five Steps to Legally Protect and Grow Your Online Business, at samvanderwielen.com. And to stay connected and follow along, follow me on Instagram, @samvanderwielen, and send me a DM to say hi.
Just remember that although I am a attorney, I am not your attorney and I am not offering you legal advice in today’s episode. This episode and all of my episodes are informational and educational only. It is not a substitute for seeking out your own advice from your own lawyer. And please keep in mind that I can’t offer you legal advice. I don’t ever offer any legal services. But I think I offer some pretty good information.
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Resources Discussed in This Episode
- Copycats Training Sign Up: Save $25 off with code: Copycat25
- Episode 109. All Your Trademark Questions: Answered
- Submit your legal question for an upcoming episode of On Your Terms™
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