Your Guide on How to Trademark a Business Name

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Are you missing out by not trademarking your business name? In most cases, the time and money spent to trademark your business name will be well worth the initial investment. Learn how to trademark your business name with Greg Gillman:

What Is a Trademark?

A trademark is a creative word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these options that customers readily recognize as your unique brand. It distinguishes your product or service from other competitors in the marketplace. 

You become a trademark owner the moment you start using one with your business and establish rights by using it on a regular basis. However, those rights are limited and only apply to the geographic area you operate in. 

You must register with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to acquire broader rights and protections for your trademark.

A trademark must meet two general criteria: it must be used in commerce, and it must be distinctive. Applications for registered trademarks traditionally fall into one of five categories, the first three of which are considered acceptable by the USPTO:

  1. Arbitrary: Arbitrary trademarks use actual words that have no real-world association with the goods or services they’re identified with, such as Apple computers, Shell gasoline, and Dove soap products.
  2. Fanciful: Fanciful trademarks are undeniably distinctive because they are made-up words such as Exxon, Google, Clorox, Kodak, and Revlon.
  3. Suggestive: Suggestive trademarks hint at some quality or the type of goods or services they relate to. For example, Land Rover suggests a vehicle that can handle all types of terrain while Netflix streams movies or “flicks” via the internet.
  4. Descriptive: Descriptive trademarks use a common word or words related to the product or services sold, such as Smooth & Creamy yogurt or Healthy Shine shampoo. Because these trademarks are not uniquely identifiable, they can only be registered as a trademark in certain circumstances, such as gaining distinctiveness through extensive marketing over a long period of time. 
  5. Generic: Generic trademarks refer to a general class of products and never qualify for a registered trademark. 

What Is the Purpose of a Trademark?

A recognizable trademark distinguishes the goods or services you sell from your competition. It identifies your business, what you sell, and even your company values. State Farm, for example, has trademarked its phrase, “Like a good neighbor. State Farm is there.” 

Registered trademarks also provide legal protections for your brand, stopping competitors and other unauthorized users anywhere in the United States from using your trademark to sell the same product or services to the public. It also forbids individuals from selling counterfeit goods with your trademark and provides for co-compensation for any losses due to counterfeit use.

Why Should You Trademark a Business Name?

When a word, symbol, phrase, or design becomes synonymous with the product or service your company provides, it is in your firm’s best interest to register that trademark. 

Doing so gives your company exclusive rights to use the trademark, deterring competitors from coming up with similarly designed logos to lure customers to their brand and protecting your goods or services from counterfeiters hoping to take a piece of your pie. 

However, a registered trademark allows you to market that word or symbol whenever and wherever you wish. 

  • They protect your brand’s unique message: Trademarks distinguish your brand from your competition in the marketplace. They enable a company to create and control how customers think about their products or services.
  • They protect your company’s reputation: Through trademarks, your business controls how consumers perceive your goods or services and protects its reputation in the marketplace. 
  • They protect your company through easy maintenance: If the USPTO approves your trademark registration application, you only have to re-register in five to six years and provide that your business actively uses the trademark. After that, re-registration is only required every ten years.
  • They provide broader protections than business registrations: Registering your business in the state in which you operate only protects you from personal and tax liability in that specific state.

    With a registered trademark, you enjoy the exclusive right to stop any other business or individual anywhere in the United States from using your trademark to sell the same product or services to consumers.
  • They allow for business expansion: Registered trademarks allow business owners to expand their operations to other states without formally registering their businesses in those states.

How to Trademark a Business Name?

Applying for a registered trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office requires a completed application submitted online and a government fee calculated based on several factors.

  1. Pay the filing fee: The amount of the government fee to apply for a trademark is dependent on several factors, including the class of goods and services the trademark is for and which application filing option you select.

    In some instances, a trademark may be used for more than one class of goods or services, increasing the fee. In addition to its class of goods/services, your registration fee also is determined by which application filing option you choose.

    The filing fee known as TEAS (Trademark Electronic Application System) Standard costs $350 but has fewer requirements than the TEAS Plus filing fee of $250. If you are unsure which application option to use, check out the TEAS tutorial videos available at to help you decide. 
  2. Application examination: Once your application is submitted and given a serial number, a trademark examining attorney will review it to ensure it meets all legal standards and does not conflict with any other existing or pending trademarks. 
  3. Decision by the USPTO: If no problems arise during the application review, the examining attorney will approve your trademark for publication. Suppose the attorney determines that your trademark is not registrable.

    In that case, they will issue an official letter explaining why the application is being refused and include any suggestions for resolving the problem.² Business owners must respond to the attorney’s concerns by the letter’s stated deadline, detailing the corrections they will take to make the proposed trademark acceptable.

    If your recommended changes correct the problem, the examining attorney will approve the trademark. If your response still does not meet the examining attorney’s review, the business owner will receive a final letter stating that the trademark application has been denied.
  4. Appeal USPTO decisions: Companies have the right to appeal a rejected trademark with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB). 

So how long does this process take? The trademark registration process can take anywhere from eight to 12 months, depending on the complexity and nature of the trademark request itself.

Wrap Up on Trademarking a Business Name

In conclusion, most U.S. businesses should strongly consider registering any trademarks they use for the goods or services they provide to consumers. It provides exclusive control of that trademark, protects its reputation, and wards off unauthorized users. 

Although the trademark registration process costs money, it is well spent for most business owners to use an identifiable trademark in their market. It allows them to expand into other states with the luxury of the same protections.

A trademark is just one component of running a successful business. For more business tips, check out my blog. For personalized business advice, feel free to reach out to me directly


Trademark | LII / Legal Information Institute

Why Trademarks Are So Valuable for Your Small Business | Forbes

About the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board | USPTO

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