This is how to make a brand name legal: When you create an original brand, trademark it as soon as possible. When you trademark your brand name, you can legally ensure the name is connected to your product and company.

What Is a Brand Name?

A brand name, or business identity, is a name that bears a strong connection to a company's products and services. For a brand name to be successful, consumers should recognize it and be able to distinguish it from other brands. Brand names are also strong when they represent a set of values and incite an emotional response from the consumer.

Should You Trademark Your Brand Name?

You should trademark your brand name if you want to do business across state lines or internationally. When you hold a trademark, you can prevent other companies from infringing on your business identity. Without one, your company can be inhibited when other businesses have similar names, logos, or marks.

How Can You Come up With a Trademark?

Coming up with the perfect trademark for your business is a balancing act. Your brand should attract customers, but you need a brand name that your attorney can defend. To help yourself in the long run, you must do the following:

  1. Try to come up with 500 to 1,000 potential brand names.
  2. From that larger list, narrow down your choices to 50.
  3. Send that list to your attorney. Your attorney will do a trademark search in your industry and related industries. This is an initial search. Your attorney is trying to see if the names you've selected could infringe on active trademarks.
  4. After the initial screening, the attorney will pick out the strongest names and do a deeper search for their availability. From those names, choose your favorite and immediately authorize your attorney to register that name. However, if you like a name that might infringe on another business's trademark, talk with your lawyer to discuss the possible risks of using that name. Be careful, because this phase gets expensive; you might have to pay between $3,000 and $4,000 per name.

How Can You Register Your Trademark?

You can register an original trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's principal register. Having your trademark on this list will be beneficial in case you find yourself in a trademark dispute.

If you only use a descriptive brand name, you will have to register it with the supplemental register. This is a list of trademarks that might not meet the requirements for the principal register but might still distinguish your company. When your trademark is on the supplemental register, you could sue for infringement, but you must do more to prove you have a distinctive brand name.

How Can You Protect Your Brand Identity?

After coming up with a good brand name, you must do more to protect your brand identity. The first step is trademarking your brand. Here are some other things you can do:

  • Search for any infringers. Every now and then, you will need to perform an internet search to make sure no one is misappropriating your trademark in specific marketplaces. Google has an Alerts function you can use every time there is an instance of infringement. Once alerted, contact your lawyer.
  • Send each infringer a Cease and Desist letter, which is also called a Take-Down Notice. When you send an infringing party this notice, you are letting them know you own the trademark in question and that, by law, they must remove all infringing marks from websites, servers, products, or services. You are protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1996, which protects your intellectual property on the internet. When violators fail to comply with the act, they can lose their own protection under the law.
  • When you draft contracts, include intellectual property clauses. When you hire contractors and employees, they must sign agreements that state they will not use your intellectual property (IP) for their personal use or in their own businesses. You must also include a clause that states all intellectual property created for your business belongs to your company.

If you need help making your brand name legal, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.