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Registration of a brand name in the USA: Trade Name vs. Trade Mark

Registration of a brand name in the USA: Trade Name vs. Trade Mark

Registration of a brand name (trade name)

A brand name registration (Trade Name), also known as a "Doing Business As" (DBA) name, is done at the state level and allows a business to legally operate under that name within that state. However, registration grants No exclusive rights or prevents other parties from using the same name.

In short:

One Trademark registration is the application and nationwide registration of a trademark (Figurative mark, Word mark) with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), granting the owner exclusive rights to use this trademark for certain products/services. A Brand name registration on the other hand, is merely the registration of a business name at state level, which does not confer any exclusive nationwide rights.

Requirements for registration

The requirements for registering a brand name vary from state to state. As a rule, an application must be submitted to the relevant state authority (e.g. Secretary of State Office or Department of Revenue) and a fee paid. Some states require all businesses operating under a name other than the legal name of the owners to register a trade name. Other states require this only for certain business structures such as corporations and LLCs.

Period of validity and renewal

Brand name registrations are usually valid for a certain period of time (e.g. 1-5 years) and must be renewed regularly by paying a renewal fee.

Registration vs. registration

A brand name registration is fundamentally different from a trademark registration:

  • Registration level: Brand names are registered at the state level, while trademarks are registered at the federal level with the USPTO.
  • Scope of rights: A brand name registration does not grant exclusive rights, whereas a trademark registration grants exclusive nationwide rights.
  • Registration costs: The fees for a trademark registration are significantly higher than for a brand name registration.
  • Period of validity: Brand name registrations have a limited period of validity of a few years, trademark registrations can theoretically be valid indefinitely.
  • Symbol usage: After a brand name registration, only TM/SM may be used; after a trademark registration, the ® symbol may be used.
  • Legal protection: A trademark registration offers comprehensive legal protection of the trademark, a brand name registration does not.
  • Geographical reach: Brand name registration only within one state, trademark registration nationwide.
  • Required documents: Significantly more documents/evidence are required for a trademark registration.
  • Renewal procedure: Brand name registrations must be renewed regularly, trademark registrations according to a specific procedure.
  • Examination process: Trademark applications undergo a detailed examination process, whereas brand name applications do not.
  • Possibility of transfer: Registered trademarks can be transferred more easily than brand names.
  • Legal basis: Brand name registrations are based on national law, trademark registrations on federal law.

State vs. federal level

A trademark registration is done at the state level, while a federal trademark registration is filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Scope of rights

A trademark registration only allows that business name to be used within that state, but does not grant exclusive rights. A trademark registration, on the other hand, gives the owner exclusive nationwide rights to use that mark in connection with its goods/services and protects against the use of the same or similar marks by others.

Using the ® symbol

The ® symbol may only be used for trademarks that are registered with the USPTO. A mere brand name registration does not authorize the use of this symbol, but only the symbols ™ for trademarks and ℠ for service marks.

While a brand name registration only allows the use of a specific business name within a state, a trademark registration provides broader, nationwide legal protection of the brand as a trademark. Many businesses register their brand name as both a state trademark and a federal trademark.

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Disclaimer: Please note that the above dates, tax rates and regulations may change over time. Do not make any independent decisions without first consulting an expert for your individual situation. It is in your interest to always receive individual information from an experienced expert who knows your situation.

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