Understanding DBA vs. trademark is important if you want to make sure that your business is legally protected. Doing business as (DBA) registrations and trademarks serve two completely different purposes. A DBA allows you to do business using a fictitious name, which is any name other than your legal name. A trademark, on the other hand, is a type of intellectual property registration that protects your business's branding.

DBAs and Trademarks

After you've filed your DBA registration, its common to assume that you would have exclusive rights to your fictitious name, but in reality, you don't have any rights to your DBA name if it violates another company's trademark.

If you register a trademark, you will have the sole rights to your mark. Trademarks can be words, designs, and symbols that you use to brand your business's commercial goods. Registering a DBA provides you almost no legal rights, but registering a trademark lets you stop other entities from using your mark without your permission.

Do I Need a Trademark?

In most cases, registering a trademark is a good idea whether or not you already have a DBA name. A DBA name registration alone cannot prevent others from using your business name, and it may even be possible for another person to trademark your DBA name, meaning you would lose out on intellectual property protections.

If you want to make sure you have exclusive rights to your business's branding, including your name, you should be sure to file a trademark registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

If you're interested in registering a trademark, you should first perform a trademark search to determine if your desired mark is available or if your mark is similar to a previously registered mark. In addition to searching the USPTO's trademark database, you should search for existing trademarks in:

  • Trade journals.
  • Professional publications.
  • The internet.

If your search doesn't reveal any similar marks, you can continue with the registration process. One of the requirements of trademark registration is that you prove that you are actually using your mark for the purposes of commerce. This means that you will need to show that you are using your mark on goods that are actually being sold.

When filling out your trademark application, you will need to complete two steps. First, you will need to describe your trademark and how you have used or how you will use it. Second, you will need to include application fees. Registering your trademark for a single class of goods can cost up to $350. This fee will increase for every class of goods where you plan to use your trademark.

Many people choose to hire a trademark attorney to assist with their application. Once you have filed your application, the USPTO will review it. Generally, the USPTO will contact you with questions about your applications or with problems that need correcting. Having an attorney on your side can make communicating with the USPTO easier and more effective.

If your trademark registration gets approved, you will receive a variety of benefits:

  1. Your mark will be found on the USPTO database, so anyone performing a trademark search will see your mark, which reduces the likelihood of trademark infringement.
  2. You will be the sole owner of your mark, which means you will have legal remedies available to you if another person uses your trademark without your permission.
  3. You may have the ability to use your trademark in countries other than the United States.
  4. You will have the right to use the ® registered trademark symbol whenever you use your mark. This symbol lets other people know you are the exclusive owner of your mark and that they should not use the mark without your permission.

Can You Trademark a DBA Name?

If you use your DBA name to identify your business's services or goods, you should be able to protect it with a trademark. DBA names that are also brand names are eligible for intellectual property protection. After you've trademarked your DBA name, you can prevent other businesses from using your name or confusingly similar names. Before you can register your DBA name, however, you will have to prove to the USPTO that your name is unique and that you will use it to brand your goods.

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