When starting a business, the name is everything. A business’s name conveys its purpose and its culture, can act as a marketing tool, and provide many other keys to success. The name offers a chance to stand out and broadcast your business. Most importantly, the business name allows potential customers to find you. If you need to speak with a roofer about replacing or repairing your roof, and you search “roofer in my area” on the internet, you may get two top options: “Tom’s Roofing” and “Blake Company”. Based on the name alone, you’re likely to reach out to Tom’s Roofing for your roofing inquiry, even if Blake Company may be a better option. Unfortunately, you may never find out that Blake Company is the better roofer, and Blake Company may unfortunately never realize its full potential as customers flock to Tom’s Roofing.
Although a business’ name can convey a multitude of benefits, the name can also create major legal liabilities. Entrepreneurs and business owners can quickly find themselves in hot water due to trademark and servicemark law. A trademark is “a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others”, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. A servicemark is similar: “a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods.” Although technically different, trademarks and servicemarks fall under trademark law and are commonly referred to together as trademarks.
If you want to name your business “Boston Builders LLC” and there’s already a registered company with the name “Boston Builders LLC”, you’re likely out of luck. As such, entrepreneurs and business owners should first search the internet to determine whether a company already exists under your chosen name. At the same time, searching your state’s Secretary of State website for existing businesses with the same or similar names will help identify potential issues.
Even if your initial searches don’t turn up a business with the same name in your area or state, you may still run into legal troubles. This is because US trademark law is nationwide. Trademarks and servicemarks can be difficult to fully ascertain due to the common law elements which allow certain businesses and individuals to claim trademark protection outside of normal procedures, as can identifying whether there are any other limitations on the name you prefer to use.
Business and Partnership Lawyers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut
At Palumbo Law, we have advised and represented thousands of entrepreneurs and businesses in establishing and naming their business, mitigating legal and commercial risks, and protecting their livelihood. If you have questions relating to a business, particularly in relation to trademarks or servicemarks in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, or Connecticut, please contact our office to set up a consultation or complete the contact form.