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What's the difference between trademarks and business names?

If you own or want to own a business, it's important for you to learn certain terminology. For example, do you know the difference between a trademark and business name?

A business name is pretty simple. When you go to the Secretary of State to register your business, he or she will check the name against other registries in the state to make sure the name isn't taken. If it is, you'll need to come up with another name. If not, you'll get to use it. Sometimes, if your name is too similar to another person's business name, you'll have to adjust it.

After you get through the registration process, your Limited Liability Company or Corporation will have its name protected within the state. No one else will be able to use it or anything too similar to it in the future. Those who run sole proprietorships or partnerships can still use the same name as you, but they won't be able to register as an LLC or corporation. People in other states will be able to use your business name as well.

If you plan to move to nationwide sales, that's when you want to consider a trademark. Trademarks are phrases, words, designs or symbols. They identify your business. You'll need to have a trademark granted at the federal level. Once the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) approves your request, your trademark will be protected anywhere in the United States.

Deciding which of these processes is right for you is important for your business. Decide early, so you can protect your business.

Source: Entrepreneur, "A Business Name vs. a Trademark: Do You Know the Difference?," Nellie Akalp, accessed Feb. 16, 2018

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