Entrepreneurs are always going to be protective of their business’s name. After all, this is the name under which all of the goodwill and branding they’ve worked so hard to accrue will go. But there is still some confusion about the best way to protect that name. On the one hand, registering a ‘Doing Business As’ name does keep other businesses in your area from using the same name, and for some businesses that’s enough.
While a trademark on your business’s name offers a lot more protection, filing a trademark does take more time and money.
A DBA name, which is also referred to as a trade name, is just that – a name. It’s a quick and easy way to identify a business or entity, and filing for a DBA name is pretty straightforward.Usually all you need to do is perform a name search, fill out a form, and pay a fee. Some areas also require you to publish that you’ll be doing business under another name in a local paper, though not all do. Everything is done at the state level, so that’s as high as your protection goes. Most states have laws that forbid businesses from registering names that are deceptively similar to another DBA. However, a business the next state over can also register the same exact name and, as long as no one else in their state claimed it, they can use it.
A trademark, on the other hand, is your property. By registering it, you have exclusive rights to use it, and no one else can infringe on that right. A trademark can also be registered for different parts of your company’s branding – logos, designs, symbols, or phrases, for instance, can be registered. The trouble is that one mark can use the same words as another mark as long as they aren’t the same, exact mark. So Joe’s Tires in California and Joe’s Tires in Idaho can both register “Joe’s Tires” as long as the change the font, color, or add a different image. However, it is important to note that one mark cannot tarnish another, or cause any sort of confusion.
Since trademarks are property, registering them is a lot more complicated than filing for a DBA name. You have to apply to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and wait around a month for them to examine your mark and identify any problems. Then your mark enters a thirty-day waiting period, where other people can challenge your right to register it. Once that is over, your mark is officially registered.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.