A company’s name is an important asset. If it is unprotected, a competitor can appropriate that name, confuse customers, and cause legal problems. Trademark law registration has more business safeguards than registering a business as an LLC or corporation.
LLC or corporation
Filing a limited liability corporation or other corporate articles of incorporation or organization in New Jersey protects that corporation’s name in the state. Other LLCs or corporations may not use that name in New Jersey except if they are engaged in a different business or industry and their use will not confuse the public.
However, another business operating as a sole proprietorship or partnership may use that registered name. Their owners may file it as a fictitious name or DBA. Those businesses may feasibly offer similar products and services within the market. Also, LLC or corporate registration in New Jersey does not prevent businesses in other states from using that name.
Trademark or service mark registration provides more protection for business names. Trademarks also extend this protection to larger geographic areas and other states.
Trademarks and service marks distinguish a business’ brand from its competitors. Their primary purpose is to prevent marketplace confusion. Their protection only governs a specific category of goods and services.
A trademark or service mark includes any word, name, symbol, device, or their combination which is used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish goods or services among sellers.
Trademarks and services marks are similar. A trademark identifies the source of goods and a service mark shows the source of services.
After the US Patent and Trademark Office approves a business name as a registered trademark, its owner has exclusive rights to that name in all the states for selling goods and services. Approved trademarks are effective for 10 years and may be renewed for consecutive 10-year periods if all legal requirements are complied with.
Before applying on the USPTO’s trademark application system, applicants must search the internet and federal and state databases to ensure that no other business made a legal claim to the name. Approval may take from almost one to several years depending on the mark’s complexity and other issues.
The USPTO recommends using the designation ® with registered marks. TM may be used with goods and SM with services if the business adopted a trademark or service mark and an application was not filed. Legal action for misappropriation of names that are unregistered with the USPTO is more difficult.
Attorneys can help apply for this protection. They can also take legal action when trademarks are misappropriated.