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Archived updates for Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Business Names and Trademarks for Dummies

Answers to commonly asked questions about choosing and registering a successful business name are available from, including

And don't forget to "Make Sure Your Proposed Business Name Is Available" by, among other things, "Conducting a Trademark Search." Many of these same trademark principles also apply to naming your product.

Once you've found an available name, you may want to take advantage of the extra protection that registering qualified names as a trademark or service mark can give you. While it's not required, registering your "mark" can help prevent a competing business from using a name that's likely to be confused with yours. For more information, see "Filing a Federal Trademark Application" and "How Federal Trademark Registration Works."

Preferably, the "R" in a circle ("®") notice symbol should accompany a trademark after it has been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Failure to put the notice on a registered trademark can greatly reduce the possibility of recovering significant damages if it later becomes necessary to file a lawsuit against an infringer. However, the ® symbol may not be put on a mark unless it has been registered with the USPTO. Nonetheless, many people like to put a "TM" (or "SM" for service mark) next to their unregistered "common law" trademark or service mark in order to let the world know that they are claiming ownership of it. But it is not legally necessary to provide this type of notice; the use of the trademark or service mark itself is the act that confers ownership.

As the owner of a registered or common law trademark, you can then start "Enforcing Your Trademark Rights" in order to stop others from using your trademark, or a confusingly similar one. Keep in mind that "Trademarks Differ From Patents and Copyrights." Therefore, you may also want to learn more about "Patents" and "Copyrights."

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