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 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 email@example.com. 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.