SCORE

Q:  I am in the process of organizing a new business and want to be sure that the name I select is unique and is trademark protected. What do you suggest?

A: Registering a trademark for a company name is not a complicated process. The U.S. Patent and Trademark office web site is www.uspto.gov .

Before completing the online registration form, check the site’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) database to make sure another company hasn’t registered an identical or similar mark for the same goods or services you offer.  Don’t designate a specific design of your trademark in order to get the broadest protection.

Refrain from registering names that are too generic  like “Lawn Care Specialists.”  A trademark lawyer can help you find a way to get at least some protection.

At this juncture it is worth noting that your name should, ideally, describe the type of goods or services you provide.  “XYZ Enterprises” says nothing to the consumer. Better you call yourself “XYZ Insurance Consultants.”

 If you intend to do business through a web site, you should seriously consider  getting your own Internet domain.  Getting  a domain name is easy and inexpensive.  www.GoDaddy.Com is the world’s largest domain registrar. You can obtain a .com name for just $9.99 per year.

You should begin by giving a lot of thought to the domain name you want to use.  Again, don’t use a name that is too generic as chances are it will already be taken. Your Internet domain name should be the same as your business name.

If you do not have a web host, you can use the domain registration to park your name at a temporary site while you develop your web site.

Another good reason to get a domain is if you switch web hosts you do not have to inform your clients about a change in URL.  They just type in your domain name and will be directed to your new site.

While you can trademark your business and Internet domain name yourself, for a modest price, you may wish to seek out an attorney familiar with both in the event you run into problems with other businesses with similar names.

In the long run it is cheaper to pay for these services than to find out, after the fact, that someone is suing you for encroaching on their trademarks.

About the Author(s)

Gray Poehler is a volunteer with the Richmond Chapter of SCORE, Counselors to America's Small Business.

Business Counselor