What Name Do We Put On The Jersey?
Every business needs a name and choosing one can be tricky. You may want to hire a company that specializes in this to do the naming for you, as you want to make sure that it is a name people will remember, will work well in your marketing and graphic design, won’t be misspelled or mispronounced – or worse, have an unflattering meaning in a different language – and that your company won’t outgrow it because you were too specific about what you sell or provide.
FIRST, LET’S START WITH THE BASICS.
A trade name is the official name you use to do business. It is sometimes referred to as a “DBA”, or Doing Business As. A trade name does not provide you any legal protection and other companies may use the same name.
For example, there’s Pandora the jewelry company and Pandora the music streaming company. That said, you don’t want to venture into dilution issues by choosing the name Pandora if you’re going to be selling jewelry or music streaming, too. That just opens the door to a lawsuit, or at the very least, a nasty letter from a lawyer. And you probably want to stay away from the name Seattle Seahawks, unless you want to get flagged for encroachment.
If you use any other name for your company than your own name, you need to register it when you fill out your Washington Business License Application. Each trade name is $5.
A trademark is different than a trade name. A trademark is used to protect a brand name, which can also be your trade name if you are using it to identify products and services. For instance, Coca Cola is both a trade name (the name of the business) and its products.
If you plan to do business only in Washington State, you can file your trademark with the Secretary of State. If your business will be regional or national, you may want to register it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This is something that should be handled by an intellectual property or trademark attorney, as the process can be cumbersome. Note that a federal trademark can trump a state trademark, so you may want to consider getting federal protection, just in case your business grows beyond state lines. It will also keep you from running afoul of other companies who have federal trademarks for a particular name. You can perform an initial trademark and trade name search here.