What to do about a business name trademark?

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What to do about a business name trademark?

My business name is a common word. I notice that it is already being used by more than 1company and they have applied for trademarks. Since my business is an acronym and its primarily on-line offering a different service, should I risk a trademark application or do I run the chance of being sued?

Asked on December 22, 2010 under Business Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

On the one hand, if the business name is not descriptive or related to the services you provide, it probably is trademarkable--descriptive names are not. On the other hand, even if you trademarked it, if it's a common word, you couldn't stop others from using it in the appropriate context. E.g. say your product or service is graphic design and your business name is "CARS" (e.g. "creative art, reliable service"), you couldn't stop someone from having a "Cars auto," since in that context, the name is descriptive.

What are you hoping to accomplish by trademarking the business name? Even without registering a trademark, you have substantial protection under common law trademark and unfair competition law from having a competitor use a like name. And as noted, if the name is a common word, you can't stop others from using the word "as its intended." It may be that trademark doesn't really get you anything you don't already have.


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