Member Login

Wait, do I even have a brand name?

We’re back this week sharing another lesson from Brand Boss that answers a frequently asked question.

Your brand is a beautiful, vulnerable thing. All of the (well-spent) time and money that you’ve poured into building up your brand and all of its parts (including, at a minimum, your business name, logo and slogan) could be meaningless unless you protect it. And the way to do so? With a good ‘ol trademark of course.

But before you can even begin the trademark process, you first need to know which aspects of your brand actually need protecting. And, if you’re anything like many of the entrepreneurs we know you may be scratching your head and wondering:

Do you trademark your business name or your brand name? (And is there a difference?)

Let’s start by making an important distinction between a business name and a brand name, so you can be sure that you are registering the right one as a trademark. All businesses have a business name. Your business name is the name you gave to the government when you first registered your business. Your business name might be the same as your brand name or you might have a separate brand name.

Now, your business name is what you use for running of a business; for example, your business name is on your business bank account and checks, it’s the name you sign contracts under, it’s who the IRS addresses its letters too and it’s the name the Secretary of State refers to you by.

Your brand name, on the other hand, is what you use in the marketplace to promote your business; it’s what your customers and referral partners know you by. Again, these are sometimes, but not always, the same thing.

Here’s an example. You are an organizational consultant—the kind who tells people how to fold their underwear and stack their tupperware so that they can become better human beings, not the kind that restructures large teams within mammoth organizations (because: boring). You register your business with the secretary of state as “Marge Milton Organizational Consulting, LLC.” Why? Because your name is Marge Milton and you are an Organizational Consultant and you just couldn’t be bothered with creativity that day. Fair enough, Marge.

However, you know that “Marge Milton Organizational Consulting” will not help you stand out in the marketplace, will not put you on the path to big profits and world influence, and it is not a registrable trademark. So, you put your head down and emerge with a distinctive brand name worth talking about. Marge Milton Organizational Consulting is how you talk to the government, but your customers shall only know you by your new brand name: In The Fold.

So…which name needs a trademark?

In the above example, Marge, our earnest heroine, would register a trademark for her brand name, In The Fold. Now, Marge could have just as easily registered her business as In The Fold, LLC as opposed to Marge Milton Organizational Consulting, LLC. However, often when entrepreneurs are anxious to get their businesses going, they don’t have the time or creative capacity to come up with the perfect brand name right from the start. They just want to get all of the boring parts of starting a business out of the way–the formation, the hiring of an accountant, the bookkeeping, the contracts, etc—so they register their business using any old name, and get to the branding part a bit later. As a business owner, you should never feel dragged down by your registered business name. It’s never too late to create a strong brand to identify and differentiate your business in the marketplace.

Moral of the story: the name you use to sell goods and services to your customers is the name you should register as a trademark. That might be your business name, or it might be your brand name. Now get to steppin, Marge. There’s lots of sock drawers out there to color coordinate.

Speak Your Mind

Get your hands on the smart, simple, and surefire steps to becoming legally legit.


Bonuses include...

  • The help and push you need to stop procrastinating and start covering your ass
  • Feeling like you can actually make your business legit and your bottom line bangin'
  • Exciting surprises, insider info, and actionable, badass business tips from a bonafide lawyer
  • Make a list, check it twice, make it rain.
Download Today
Small Business Bodyguard | As Seen On Fast Company Small Business Bodyguard | As Seen On msnbc Small Business Bodyguard | As Seen On Entrepreneur Magazine Small Business Bodyguard | As Seen On Forbes Small Business Bodyguard | As Seen On Black Enterprise Small Business Bodyguard | As Seen On The Washington Post Small Business Bodyguard | As Seen On AMEX Open Forum