Trade Names vs. Trademarks

Trade Names vs. Trademarks

Choosing a name for your business is an exciting step. It sets the tone for your brand and creates a first impression for potential customers. However, there’s more to consider than just picking a cool name. Understanding the difference between trade names and trademarks is crucial to protect your brand identity and avoid legal issues down the road.

Trade Names vs. Trademarks: What’s the Difference?

Many people use the terms “trade name” and “trademark” interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings:

  • Trade Name: This is the denomination you register with your state’s Secretary of State to identify your business entity (LLC, Corporation, etc.). It’s the legal name used for official documents and filings.
  • Trademark: A trademark protects a specific brand name or symbol used to distinguish your goods or services from competitors. Trademarks are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and provide exclusive rights to use that brand name in commerce.

Trade Names: Limited Protection

Registering a trade name with your state offers some basic benefits:

  • Legal Identity: It establishes your business as a legal entity within the state.
  • Availability Check: It confirms the denomination is available for use within that state.

However, a trade name doesn’t guarantee national brand protection. Another company in a different state can use the same denomination as long as it doesn’t create confusion in the marketplace.

Trademarks: Powerful Brand Protection

Trademarks offer significantly stronger brand protection:

  • Exclusive Rights: A registered trademark grants you exclusive rights to use the brand nationwide for the goods or services specified in the registration.
  • National Protection: Your brand is protected from others using a similar denomination that could cause confusion with consumers.
  • Legal Enforcement: You have the legal power to stop others from infringing on your trademark.

Choosing a Business Name

Now that you understand the difference, here’s how to choose a strong business name:

  • Availability: Check for availability as a trade name in your state and as a trademark with the USPTO.
  • Brandability: Choose a denomination that is memorable, easy to pronounce, and reflects your brand image.
  • Keywords: Consider including relevant keywords to help customers find your business.
  • Future Growth: Think about a denomination that can grow with your business as you expand your offerings.

DBA (Doing Business As): A Flexible Option

Even if your desired business denomination isn’t available as a trade name in your state, you can still use it! A DBA (Doing Business As) allows you to operate under a different denomination than your legal business name. This is a good option if you want your brand to be called something catchy that might not be available for official registration.

Importance of Trademark Searches

It’s wise to conduct a trademark search before settling on a what to call your business. This helps identify potential conflicts with existing trademarks. While a similar denomination used in a completely different industry might not be an issue, it’s best to avoid confusion for consumers.

Choosing a business name and navigating trademark law can be complex. Consulting with a lawyer who works with intellectual property law can be invaluable. Lawyers at Carbon Law Group can assist you with:

  • Conducting trademark searches.
  • Understanding trademark registrability.
  • Registering your trademark with the USPTO.
  • Enforcing your trademark rights.


Choosing the right name for your business is a crucial first step. By understanding the difference between trade names and trademarks, you can make informed decisions to protect your brand identity and ensure your business thrives. Remember, seeking legal guidance from an experienced intellectual property lawyer at Carbon Law Group can provide valuable support throughout the process.

Important Note: This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with an attorney for specific legal questions.

Trade Names vs. Trademarks

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