Trademark Journal

Can I Trademark My Business Name?

CATEGORY: Trademark
20 July 2023


First off, let’s distinguish between two different uses of the term “business name” – its use as the name of the business itself (e.g., the company that owns the business), and its use as the name or brand under which the business offers its goods and services for sale. The name of the business itself cannot be protected as a trademark, unless it is also used as the name under which its goods and services are sold.  Google®, for example, is both the name of a company and the trademark under which the company’s services are offered. 

A business name consisting of a word or symbol is used as a trademark if the company uses it to distinguish its products or services from those of other companies. If that is the case, the name can be protected against use by others through registration.

Registration applications in the United States are handled by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO. They are not exclusive to big companies; anyone can apply for a trademark. It’s easier to get one than you might think. If you are considering registering your brand as a trademark, this article will guide you through the importance, and steps, of securing one.  


Protect your brand from being used by anyone else 

If you have a business name that you are using as a trademark, chances are you will want to protect it from being used by anyone else.  

  • You will want to protect your name from being used by others: Trademark law allows companies and individuals alike to sue for trademark infringement if another party improperly appropriates their mark, and by doing so, diverts sales away from them. For example, if I use the word “Google” in marketing my online advertising services without getting permission from Google, Inc., (which owns the exclusive right to use that trademark for such services), I could get sued for infringement  because of the risk that I might draw customers away from Google, Inc..  
  • You will want to protect your business from being confused with others: To continue this example, Google, Inc. will want to prevent me using the Google® mark even if there’s no risk of my diverting customers away from it, because of the reputational risk that the poor quality of my advertising services may reflect unfavorably upon it   
  • You will want to build brand loyalty: Businesses need to make sure that their customers know where their products come from. For example, if you sell organic foods at Whole Foods Market but use only generic terms such as “organic” on packaging and website content, there will be no way for customers who purchase these items anywhere other than Whole Foods stores to know where those products came from. Building recognition is an essential pre-condition of building brand loyalty. 

There are two pathways to achieving these three objectives. 

You can certainly achieve these objectives simply by using your mark, but your use must be prominent enough, and continue for a long enough time for consumers to learn to recognize it and associate it with your goods and services. Moreover, if you need to prevent others using your mark, you will need to prove that you have succeeded in establishing this association. – an effort in which you may or may not be successful, and which in any event would be expensive and time-consuming.  

An easier pathway is to register your trademark by filing a registration application in the USPTO. You can file this application yourself, but the application process has many traps for the unwary and you would probably be well advised to seek the assistance of an experienced trademark attorney. This will cost some money – the attorney’s professional fee – but it will be money well spent and will save you a lot of heartache later. In addition to the professional fee, you will also need to pay an official fee to the USPTO, which at present is US$350 per class of goods and services on which you intend to use your mark  

The application may be filed either before or after you have begun using your mark, but if filed before, you must provide proof that you have commenced use of the mark in order to complete the registration process.  

After your application is filed, it will be examined by the USPTO to see whether your mark is eligible for registration under the Trademark Law, and to ensure that nobody else had already filed or registered a similar mark on similar goods/services.  If your application passes this examination, it will be published in the Official Gazette, and if unopposed, your mark will be registered.  

This whole registration process will cost $1,500 + (USD),  depending upon how many classes of goods and services you want to have included in your application, and will take 10-12 months to complete, assuming there are no objections.

Bear in mind that filing a trademark registration application does not mean you will get a registration. 

Not all trademarks are eligible to be registered – e.g., descriptive/generic marks cannot be registered. Not all eligible trademarks are  registered – e.g., registration may be denied if the examination process reveals that somebody else has already filed or registered a similar mark on similar goods.  


As you can see, there are a lot of steps to becoming a trademark owner. But if you have the resources and time, it is well worth the effort. Even if no one else uses your business name for their products or services, you will be able to prevent confusion among customers and build brand recognition for your business. 

By Suman Naresh

Suman is a graduate of Cambridge University and a member of the English Bar, and a former law professor at Cambridge, the University of Chicago, and Tulane University Law School in New Orleans. He has practiced, lectured, and published in the field of intellectual property for more than forty years. He is the CEO of Trademark ISG, LLC, which provides assistance and intellectual property support services to Joseph Root and Verena Benker.

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