Ask The County Law Librarian – Trademark vs. Trade name

Q. Dear Law Librarian,

I am starting a new business. I hired a graphic artist and now have a really awesome logo. I have gotten my business license and registered as an LLC with the Secretary of State. How can I protect my logo? What’s the difference between a trade name and a trademark?


A. You are right this is a confusing area of the law especially for new businesses.

Trade Names
Trade names are just the name of the business entity used in identifying a business and generally used by the company for billing, taxes, banking, or other identification purposes.

Trademarks are marks used in connection with goods or services so that consumers recognize the marks as identifying a source of goods or services like a logo, for example the Nike swoosh. For trademark rights a mark must be affixed to the goods or product packaging.
The confusion can arise when trade names are used as trademarks, for example, Coca-Cola. If you are using your company’s trade name as a trademark registration of the business with the Secretary of State will not provide you trademark registration rights like you will have if you obtain a United States trademark registration.

A federal trademark registration application goes through an examination process to determine if there are conflicting trademark registrations or to determine if the mark is merely “descriptive” of the goods or services. The examination process can provide valuable information from the United States Patent and Trademark Office regarding potential weaknesses with your mark. Once you obtain a U.S. trademark registration, you have additional rights and increased your ability to protect them.

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.

Coral Henning, Director
@coralh & @saclawlibrarian

  • First use goes a long way in claiming a trademark. If your mark is good, be prepared to defend it from confusingly similar marks and dilution. You should also consider registering a stylized version of your mark, to keep others from usings a similar phrase or words done in the same style as yours as to cause confusion in an attempt to trade on your mark. Best of luck!

  • Julia Baum

    Great information! I’ve been looking into trademarking a few things. I noticed recently that another locally competing bellydancer has been using a nearly identical alphanumeric business phone number to mine, after I told her about mine and where to obtain such a vanity number. I feel that trying to horn in on a competitor’s branding is unethical and shows a lack of creativity on their part to differentiate themselves from everyone else in their industry. Remember, wearing someone else’s style is likely to fit you like a cheap suit. It is better to find what makes you unique from everyone else and offer that to the world.


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