7 Ways to Protect Your Business Name
In today’s world, protecting your business’s name is a critical step in ensuring the success of your company. You want to make sure that no one else is using your name or trying to infringe upon it. You have worked hard to get your business where it is, so protecting it is important.
How can you protect your business name? There are several ways you can protect your business name legally, and, luckily, these ways are relatively easy. Read on to discover seven ways to protect your business name.
Table of Contents
Register Your Business Name
Choosing the name of your business is an important first step. You need to have a name to conduct business, and it is crucial to do this as early as possible. You cannot do business unless you have registered a name for your company.
Registering your business’s name protects the name because the name will be official. For example, if you do not register your name, then anyone else can still use it. Once you have it registered, it is yours.
However, before registering your business’s name, you need to have a good name. Part of the process of protecting your business name is to do your homework. You need to make sure no one else is using the name you want to use. So, what should you find out beforehand?
- Know the difference between the Legal Name and the Trading Name
- Know the different business structures in the United Kingdom
- Research other companies
To choose the right name for your company, you need to look at these components. Knowing the rules behind choosing a name will help you avoid choosing a name you cannot protect. It will also ensure you can register it.
Legal Name vs Trading Name
In the United Kingdom, there are two types of names. There is a legal name, and there is a trading name. While these names can be the same, they are often different. But what are they, exactly?
The legal name of your business is the official name of the company. This is the name that is used on legal documents and how the government will officially recognise your company. However, the structure of your business will affect what the legal name can be.
The trading name is the name that your company will do business under. It is the name that the public will know you by.
Sometimes, the two names will be the same. It depends on your situation. However, understanding the difference between them is important in protecting them.
Read more about our brand name evaluation services and Peek’s Key Steps in the process of evaluating a brand or business name.
The Different Business Structures in the U.K.
In the United Kingdom, there are different business structures that you can set your business up as. They include:
- Sole Trader
- Limited Liability Company
Remember, each type of business structure has different rules when it comes to the name.
A sole trader, for example, must use the name of the individual as the legal name. The trading name can be whatever they want. In a partnership, the legal name can either be the names of the partners or be the same as the trading name. In an L.L.C., the legal name can be the same as the trading name.
When it comes to the specifics of the name, it is important to reference official rules on what you can and cannot use for a name. For example, your name cannot be offensive or use certain words on the HMRC list.
Sole Trader and Partnership Business Names
If you are a sole trader or partnership, your trading name can be the same as your personal name, or it can be different.
There are some rules you need to adhere to, however, when creating your name, which include:
- You cannot use words or phrases that include the word “limited,” nor can you use acronyms for the word. This would give a false impression that you are not a sole trader or a partnership.
- You cannot use words that are directly associated with the government. This is so that you do not create any confusion that you are related to the government. You would need specific permission from the government to use these words.
- Your name cannot be offensive.
- Your name cannot be the same as a registered trademark, including if the name is only a slight variation of a trademark. It must be completely original.
If you follow these rules, then your name will be protected, and you will not have any issues registering your name in the United Kingdom.
Limited Liability Company Names
A limited liability company needs to have a legal name. There are two ways to use a name as a limited liability company. You can use the legal name, or you can use the trading name, which would follow the same rules as the other two business structures.
If you decide to use a legal name for the limited liability company, then there are a few specific additional rules that need to be adhered to.
- The name of your company cannot be similar to an existing company’s name.
- The name must include either the shortened “ltd.” or the word “limited.”
- The name, as with the other structures, cannot be offensive.
- As with sole traders and partnerships, it cannot use words associated with the government without permission.
- As with sole traders and partnerships, it cannot be the same as a registered trademark.
If your business is a limited liability company, then you must follow these rules. If you follow these rules, then you will have no problems protecting your business name.
Research Other Companies
When deciding upon your name, you need to research other companies. What names are they using? Are they similar to what you want to use?
By researching other companies, you will avoid legal issues by choosing names too similar to them. You will then be able to adjust your own name.
Doing market research will also help you stand out. If you know exactly what you wish to convey, you will be able to formulate a name that tells your story perfectly.
Protecting your business name is important, and knowing what names are out there already will help you avoid common mistakes, which will keep your name protected.
Read more about our brand name evaluation services and Peek’s Key Steps in the process of evaluating a brand or business name.
Choosing the Right Name
When choosing the name of your business, you want to make sure it is uniquely yours. You may already have a name for your business, which is great! However, if you are still in the early stages of protecting your business name, it is important to take a closer look at your name.
You want your name to represent your company in a way that is specific to you. This will help it become associated with you. This helps protect your name. Choose a name that reflects your mission and your products. A name that reflects your brand story and personality are key to success.
When you have a name that is unique, not similar to others, and fits the rules of your legal and trading names, you are ready to put it into practice.
Register a Domain for Your Business Name
One of the best ways to protect your business name is to use it and use it often. This may seem obvious, but it is the best way to set a precedent. If people see you are using your name, then it helps your argument that it is your name.
Registering a domain for your business name is a perfect way to do this. Remember, once you have created your name, it is yours. If you have officially registered it, it is even better. Having a website that uses your business name shows that it is active.
What are the benefits of having a domain setup for your business name?
- It shows intent. By setting up a website domain, you are showing your seriousness about using the name. It shows initiative.
- It sets a precedent. Nobody will be able to say you were not using the name. You can point to the time you used the domain as the time you were actively using it.
- It provides an online place for your assets. Moreover, apart from providing an official use of your business’s name, your domain will also provide an online place for all your associated assets. This will help show your intent and increase your precedent.
Additionally, having a website domain under your name can come with an official email address. A lot of domain services offer an email address with your domain name. This helps create more protection for your business name. It shows you are actively using it in more ways than one.
By using your name actively, it creates a stronger case that it is yours. If anyone were to infringe upon your name, the courts would see that you are using your name and have been doing so for some, which would help them decide to side with you.
Register Name Variations
You have created your business’s name. You have created a domain and email address for it, and you are actively using the name. People are beginning to associate the name with you, or maybe they have already been doing so for a while. However, you are still worried that someone may try to use a variation of your name.
There are murky waters when it comes to other companies using names similar to yours. In some cases, it is a clear infringement. Yet, in other cases, it can be legal. One way to protect yourself against this is to consider variations of your name and register them yourself.
Some things to consider when thinking about using variations on the side:
- You do not have to use them actively. These are essentially invisible to the public. They are just officially in your name.
- You should use only slight variations. You only want to use names that are extremely similar to your company’s name. The main goal is to keep others from infringing upon your active name.
- You will still need to renew them each year. These accounts follow the same laws as active names. This means you will still need to update them each year so that, in the eyes of the law, they are “active.”
Using variations on your business name will help protect it against people looking to benefit from your hard work and image. You do not want people to use variations on your name and get away with it. If you use the variations yourself, you are essentially barring others from doing the same.
Trademark Your Business’s Name and Assets
Trademarking your business’s name and assets is the best legal way of protecting your company name. It essentially grants rights to your usage of the name and will punish others for using it.
This is why using a trademark for your business name is important. It will stop others from using it. If they see your name is trademarked, generally, they will not attempt to infringe. However, if they do try, you are protected.
There are three types of legal protection in the United Kingdom that you can apply for to protect your name and assets. They are:
- Registered Designs
Unless you have invented the products you are selling, you most likely will not need to apply for patent protection. However, the first two are very important in securing the sole rights to your name and assets.
What Does a Trademark Protect?
A trademark will protect your business’s name. More specifically, your intellectual property.
In the United Kingdom, what constitutes intellectual property? Intellectual property concerning trademarks includes names and logos associated with your business. Intellectual property is property that you created yourself.
Since you created it, you have rights to its protections. Getting a trademark is going to secure those rights.
Types of Protection
As mentioned earlier, there are three types of protection. Focusing on the first two, what do they entail? Looking closer, you will be able to see what these protections cover and why they are so important.
Trademarks protect your name and your logo. The application process is not very long, usually around four months. When you are trying to protect your business name, it is important to start the trademark process as soon as possible.
Registered designs will protect the creative assets of your company. This can include shapes, colours, packaging, etc. For example, if you have a specific colour pattern you use for your company (and which you may use in the logo of your company), you would protect that from being copied by applying for registered design protection.
The application process for registered designs usually takes around one month.
It is important to note that you can use multiple protections for single products or assets. This will add extra protection to your intellectual property.
How to Trademark Your Business’s Name
If you want to trademark your business’s name, there is a process you will need to go through to do so.
Trademarking your business’s name is not difficult as long as you follow the steps and take your time. Since this process will legally protect your business’s name and prevent others from copying or stealing it, the process is worth it.
- First, you need to start the application on the U.K. Government website. Once there, you can navigate to the trademark information page and select to start the application.
- Next, you will need to select who is applying for the trademark and then fill in the details for that person, such as your postal address. Unless a lawyer is helping you, which is not necessary, you just select yourself as the owner of the trademark.
- You will then select what type of trademark you are applying for. You will provide what the name, logo, or style is. There is a place to upload this in the application.
- Next, you will have to choose between a single trademark or a series trademark. Essentially, a series trademark will protect variations of your logo. This is added protection against others trying to use your logo or name.
- You will next need to select what class your business falls under. There is a directory that you can use to figure this out.
- You will then be able to provide a disclaimer if necessary. However, this is not necessary most of the time.
After these steps, you will have the option of filing your application as a priority or normal. You should go with the default, which is normal. Most do not need priority service. You will have to provide information as to why you need it.
The Cost of a Trademark
After you have gone through the application process, there is a section about choosing the trademark examination type. There are two options you can choose from, and these two both carry slightly different fees.
The first option is to select: standard. This option costs £170 and is non-refundable. The second option is called right start. This option costs £200, but if your application is rejected for some reason, you only pay £100.
Additionally, if in your application you selected multiple classes for your trademark, then you will need to add £50 for each class.
These fees are negligible, and they offer your business name protection against others stealing it. It is an investment that is worth it and that should be calculated as part of your budget. Down the line, it will save you many headaches should anything go wrong.
The Benefits of Trademarking Your Business
Trademarking your business’s name will protect it, which will allow people to continue to associate your name with your business.
Without an official trademark, you still have rights to your name. There is a common law called “goodwill.” Essentially, without a trademark, your name is still protected, assuming you have been using it and people associate it with your goods. Others will refrain from using your name or your assets, which is considered “goodwill.”
However, if another company were to bypass this common law and do it anyway, you would have to sue them, and this is called “passing off.”
When you have an official trademark, you would not have to worry about this. Your rights are stronger with an official trademark. Your trademark gives you the right to stop others from using the same or similar logos, names, and assets, especially if they are doing it to confuse the public and to guide them away from your business.
The benefits of trademarking your business name are numerous. They outweigh any arguments against it. It is important to take your business name seriously. The last thing you want is legal headaches that may arise if you do not have the trademark.
Use Your Trademark Consistently
You have now trademarked your business’s name. Now what? A trademark offers a huge alleviation of stress, but you have to continue with your efforts to protect your business’s name.
As mentioned earlier, one of the best ways to protect your name is to use it consistently. This is true even when your name is trademarked. What are some reasons why it is important to maintain constant use of your trademarked name and other assets?
- Maintain your rights. You can renew your trademark each year. However, if you are not using your trademark consistently, you could create headaches. Someone who may want to use your trademarked goods could argue that you are not maintaining your trademarks and, therefore, no longer deserve them.
- Keep visible. You want people to associate your brand with your trademark. You want them to link your trademark with your products. You need to remain relevant to do this. Having a trademark will protect your name. Take advantage of this and remain visible by remaining active.
You do not want your trademark to become dormant. Dormancy signifies a business that is not doing well, and people will forget about it. You want people to remain engaged with your business. Not only does this protect your name in the future, but it ensures that your business continues to grow.
Using Copyright for Your Business
Your business’s name is important, but the elements of your business are also vital to your success. All the elements of your business coexist and work harmoniously. Therefore, if you protect your creative assets and creations, then you are also going to protect the name of your business that they all fall underneath.
Copyright is automatic. You do not have to apply for copyright. Unlike a trademark, which has an application and a fee attached to it, copyright is created as soon as the asset is created. If you have created intellectual property that falls under copyright, then your assets are protected.
What specifically does copyright protect in the United Kingdom?
- Web content
All these elements can factor greatly into your brand story and your business’s name. You want to protect these elements from being stolen and used without your consent.
People will naturally associate certain items with your business. For example, perhaps you have original photographs that you use for your website or your marketing. Those photographs are intellectually yours and are protected by copyright law. They cannot be used without your permission.
How Long Does Copyright Last?
There is no fee or application for copyright. When you have created something, you own the rights to it. However, where trademarks need to be renewed each year to keep them active, how long does copyright last?
In the United Kingdom, copyright will last the lifetime of the creator and then an additional 70 years after they have died.
This means that your assets are protected for the duration of your life and beyond. You can rest easy knowing your creative assets are protected. However, after this period, which will be long after you die, your work would enter the public domain, which means anyone would be able to use it.
What Are the Benefits of Copyright?
Copyright law exists to protect your work. When you own a business, you are putting a lot of yourself into the business. This includes a lot of website design, creative content, and marketing campaigns. You want to ensure these are protected because they are associated with your name.
If someone were to steal one of your creative works and pass it off as their own, it could damage your name and your reputation. You do not want this to happen. You want your entire brand personality and story to be consistent and well-respected.
You are allowed under copyright law to put the copyright symbol (©) after your work to show that it is protected by law. Copyright law will help you remove any work you suspect has been used without your permission.
Copyright law protects you from people passing your work off as their own, distributing it, altering it, and more. Additionally, you can license your copyrighted work to others. This is permissible under copyright law. This is up to your discretion, however.
By taking advantage of copyright law, you will also protect your business name. When all components of a business are protected, it is less likely that nothing will happen. You want to protect your business in every way possible.
Take Action Against Infringements
It is important to keep an eye on other companies. You need to monitor the marketplace for any infringements upon your name or assets.
You can do this in several ways, such as consistently researching this yourself manually or using a third party to monitor for you. When looking for infringements, what should you be looking for?
- Similar names being registered
- Similar assets being used elsewhere
- Similar names and assets being applied for
If you consistently monitor these changes, you will be able to take action immediately, which is very important. Not only does it stop the infringement quickly, but it also shows others that your assets are not to be dealt with. You project a strong image that will help protect your business’s name and your business assets.