How to Keep Your Business Name From Being Confused With Another Business

by Stephanie Dube Dwilson

The best way to legally prevent your business's name from being confused with other businesses is to register and defend the trademark for your name. First you may choose if you want a regional or national trademark. After you've finished all the paperwork, you might look for businesses with similar names and sue for any infringement. A lawyer can help you each step of the way.

Regional or Federal Trademark

A trademark is a legal way of owning your business's name and logo. It's a word, symbol, phrase or combination of these that identifies your business and helps distinguish it from others. In fact, the purpose of trademarks is to guard the consumer from being confused by similar names. Your business name and logo get automatic trademark protection in your region. If you want more legal protection in your state, register it with your state government's trademark website. If you want federal protection, register your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Federal registration gives you greater protection, such as presumed ownership, nationwide protection and an opportunity to get damages and attorney costs if you sue.

Searching Trademarks

If you want to register for a trademark so your business name won't be confused with other businesses with similar services, verify that similar names aren't already trademarked by utilizing the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Search System. You can use the database to conduct searches for similar names, similar wording or similar logo designs.

Registering a Trademark

You can register your trademark online using the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Application System. The cost, as of 2015, is $325 for a regular TEAS application, $275 for a TEAS Reduced Fee application, and $225 for a TEAS Plus application. You can use TEAS Plus if your business falls within a list of acceptable goods and services posted on the USPTO website. Your application must state who owns the trademark, contact information, an uploaded file with a drawing of the trademark, the category of good or service that your business falls under, whether you are currently using the trademark in commerce or plan to do so, a sample of how it's being used, the filing fee, and your electronic signature.

Defending Your Trademark

Even if the USPTO protects your trademark, your work isn't done. Protecting your business name from confusingly similar names is a process that lasts throughout the life of your company. You have to file maintenance documents between five and six years after your registration and every 10 years thereafter. You also have to diligently enforce your trademark. If you don't pursue infringements -- by sending cease and desist letters and even suing for unauthorized use of your mark -- you could eventually lose the right to it.