Home » Trade Names and Trademarks

Trade Names and Trademarks

This column focuses on all things legal for your business. Read my column to enhance your knowledge of business law –and follow my business tips below to help keep your business out of legal hot water. If there’s a topic you’d like to see covered, let me know!

Over the next few issues, I’ll cover ways to protect your business name, logo and intellectual property. Let’s start by distinguishing trade names from trademarks. Unless you do business under your own name (“Bob Smith Car Repair” or “Susan Small, CPA”), your business probably uses a trade name. Under Washington law, you must register your trade name with the Department of Licensing if you use any name other than your own. This requirement is in place to ensure the public knows who owns a business. You can register your trade name when you file your initial Master Application. If you add a trade name, simply file a new Master Application.

A trademark is any word, name, symbol, or device – or any combination of these things – used to identify your business or goods made or sold by a business. The most common trademark these days is a business logo. A logo typically includes the business name. Think of Coca-Cola with its unique, stylized lettering. Your logo is your “mark” – or trademark. If you want to protect your exclusive right to use your logo, you have two options. First, you can simply use the logo and document your use – when you acquired the logo, how it was first used and when you started to use it. Alternatively, you can register the mark with the Secretary of State. If you plan to use your mark outside of Washington, consider applying for federal trademark registration.

Registration or use cannot prevent someone from using your trade name or mark, but being able to prove that it’s name or mark (either by your documented use or by state or federal registration) will give you the option of taking court action to stop someone else’s use of your name or mark.

Next month we’ll cover copyrights and licenses.

Jessica Jensen is an attorney and co-owner of the law firm Jensen Kokis Erwin.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.