How to Trademark a Business Name

  1. Go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website.
  2. Check the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) database. Make sure that no one has already registered the same business name trademark in the same category.
  3. Submit your business name trademark application. Pay the filing fee.

What Is a Business Name Trademark?

trademark is a symbol or phrase that is connected to a brand. Registering a business name trademark can add value to your business.

Having a business name trademark gives you the excusive rights to use it. You can defend your business name from infringement. You can also sue for damages.

A trademark can include:

  • A phrase
  • A logo
  • A symbol, or a combination.

It must be unique. All business name trademarks have to be one of the following types:

  • Descriptive
    • These describe your business's purpose. They can be general terms. You just have to prove that the descriptive term is exclusively linked with your company to customers.
  • Suggestive
    • These refer to your business's purpose. They invite customers to make mental connections between the name and the purpose to understand the nature of the business.
  • Arbitrary
    • These are common terms. They don't have a direct connection to your business's purpose. These are often the easiest to register.
  • Fanciful
    • These are distinctive words that had no meaning until now. Since they refer to your business exclusively, they are also relatively easy to register.

Not every business name can be a trademark. You can't register a trademark that's another person has already claimed. You also can't register the following types of business name trademarks:

  • Generic Terms
  • Geographic Terms

Reasons to Consider Registering a Business Name Trademark

  • You Can Lay Claim to Your Business Name

Registering your business name with your Secretary of State only offers protection in your state. If you need to claim exclusive rights to your business name across the nation, you need a trademark. This allows you federal protection and can help you sell goods and services nationwide.

You can generally use the ™ symbol to claim common-law ownership over a business name. You can only use the ® symbol to show that you have registered the trademark, though.

  • You Can Take Steps to Get Worldwide Rights to Your Business Name

Registering your business name trademark is an important step toward trademarking your business around the globe. After you get a trademark from the USPTO, you can register your trademark with: 

  • You Can Have More Control Over Your Business's Online Presence

A trademark allows you to make sure others can't use your business name as their online domain. You can sue people who profit from using your trademark business name.

Reasons You Might Not Want to Register a Business Name Trademark

  • You Might Be Able to Rely on Common Law Protection Instead

Registering a trademark isn't the only way to get protection for your business name. You can register your business with your local Secretary of State. You can then use your trademark name in commerce. This gives you a level of common-law protection. It only applies to your local area, though. Individual states may have narrow or broad rules for how different or unique your business name has to be. Check with your Secretary of State to learn your state's guidelines.

  • You're Not Ready for Market

File an intent-to-use application instead. This confirms that you plan to use the business name soon. However, you haven't started yet. You must begin using the business name within six months of getting intent-to-use approval. If you're not ready to use it after six months, you can apply for another six-month extension.

  • It Doesn't Mean Other Parties Can't Use Your Business Name

A trademark doesn't exactly prevent other parties from using your business name. Instead, it gives you the right to prevent infringers from profiting off your business name. Enforcing your rights and maintaining your trademark can be expensive and time-consuming.

Common Mistakes

  • Filing Too Early

In general, you shouldn't file a trademark application if you haven't registered your business name. You also shouldn't if you aren't ready for market. Instead, you should file an intent-to-use trademark application.

  • Filing Too Late

There's no specific deadline for registering a trademark. You should always file a trademark application as soon as possible, though. Many business owners file a trademark application as soon as they register their business.

  • Not Using Your Business Name Trademark

You shouldn't file a trademark that you don't intend to use. This can lead to nonuse and trademark abandonment, which allows other parties to begin using your business name trademark without penalty.

  • Not Maintaining Your Business Name Trademark

The USPTO requires maintenance throughout the life of your trademark. You must show continual use after five years. You must also request a renewal to extend the trademark every 10 years. If you don't, the USPTO will cancel the trademark.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Much Does It Cost to Trademark a Business Name?

The USPTO trademark registration filing fee costs between $225 and $600. You'll pay more for:

  • Additional trademark classes
  • Extensions
  • Certain amendments
  • Maintenance
  • Filing on paper rather than online
  • How Long Does It Take to Trademark a Business Name?

Filing the application takes as little as 90 minutes. You should receive a response within six months. The USPTO approves most trademark applications within a year.

Trademarks last for 10 year periods. You can renew them indefinitely.

  • Should I Hire a Lawyer?

If you think your trademark case might be complicated, hire a lawyer. A study that analyzed 25 years of USPTO data shows that parties who hired a lawyer were 50 percent more likely to get trademark approval.

  • How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Lawyer?

Lawyers who specialize in trademark law charge $125 to $300 per hour. Registering a trademark costs $500 to $2,000, depending on how complicated your case is.

  • How Can I Register My Business Name Trademark Around the World?

There isn't a single application for international trademark registration. You can file trademark applications with the European Union, the Madrid Protocol, or the Andean Pact. This gives you protection in certain groups of countries. You can also register your business name trademark with individual nations directly.

Steps to Trademark a Business Name

1. Register Your Business Name

Go to your local Secretary of State's website. Register your business name. You'll have to pay a fee averaging about $150. You'll receive an Employer Identification Number (EIN) when your application is approved.

2. Do a Trademark Search

Go to the USPTO website. Check the TESS database to make sure make sure that your trademark business name isn't already in use.

3. File a Trademark Application

Submit your trademark application with the USPTO. You can file on paper or online through the USPTO Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). Pay the filing fee. Your application should include:

  • Statement of use
  • List of other preexisting examples of use
  • Drawing of the trademark
  • Specimen of the trademark

4. File Trademark Maintenance Documents as Necessary

File trademark maintenance documents with the USPTO at regular intervals. Do this:

  • Five years after your original trademark registration date
  • 10 years after the original date
  • Every 10 years after that

If you need help with trademarking a business name, you can post your question or concern 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. Many of them have work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.