Protecting Trade Names

Contrary to popular myth, a registered trade name is NOT a registered trademark. This is often an area of confusion among new businesses. Registration of a trade name with the Secretary of State does not mean that the trade name will not infring another’s trademark. The term ”trade name” generally means any name used by a person to identify his or her business or vocation. ”Trade name” refers mainly to the corporate, partnership or other name of a business. The business may, in turn, market goods or services under one or more trademarks or service marks.

Examples of Trade Names

”General Motors Corporation” is used as the trade name of the business that sells products under the trademark CADILLAC.

“Kraft Foods, Inc.” is used as the trade name of the business that markets JELL-O(r) desserts and Kool Bursts(r) juice drinks.
Selling, Assigning or Terminating a Trade Name

Trade names can be sold or assigned to another company. When a company is dissolved, terminated, or withdrawn, the trade names owned by that company are terminated.

Trade Name Registration

There is no provision under the Lanham Act (federal law related to trademarks) for federal registration of trade names, but they may be registered as trademarks if they are used as trademarks. If a business is using a trade name in connection with a good or service, the business should conduct a trademark clearance search to ensure that a trade name is not infringing the rights of others. To obtain nationwide trademark protection, the mark should also be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Washington. Trade names may also be registered in the state in which the person or company is based. The law sets no limits on the number of trade names which may be registered by one person or company.