If I’m trying to copyright a business name, what are the options?

UPDATED: Jun 5, 2015

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If I’m trying to copyright a business name, what are the options?

I’m a little confused.

Asked on June 5, 2015 under Business Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Rather than copyright, I think you mean trademark: copyright is not the best or most appropriate way to protect a business name, because 1) you can't copyright many names--they are too short or common (i.e. not original) to get copyright protection; and 2) copyright is narrower protection, and is more easily gotten around by infringers for this purpose. Copyright is really the protection of choice for longer or more creatively involved works: stories, graphic art, software, music, etc.

As to trademark: if the name is original (not used by another--or more accurately, not used to describe a similar business or service to what you are providing), not generic and not descriptive (e.g. if you are a software developer, you can't trademark "Software Development" as a name), you may be able to protect it by trademark, which will prevent others from using that name or confusingly similar names. You have to be using the name in commerce, or be about (in 6 months or less); it has to be associated with a specific product or service; and you have to have samples of its use or planned use.

A good first step is to do some "Google" and "Bing" searches for possible names--is any other business using it or a similar name for a similar produce or service? If so, keep searching new names until you find an original one.

Once you think you have a good name, go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) website. Use their search tools and, if the name is still available (not trademarked), you can register it online--just follow their step-by-step instructions.

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