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One of the first things you should know before you try to copyright a business name is that you cannot, in fact, copyright a business name. Copyright protection is reserved for artistic creations and works of art such as paintings, written works, music, and films. You can, however, protect a business name with a trademark or service mark that you can then typically register with the government of your country for added legal protection. Obtaining a trademark on a business name is not quite as simple a process as it would be to copyright a business name, but since copyright protection does not apply to such materials, you will typically need to go through this process of trademark registration.
Copyright protection is established for a work of art the moment it is created by someone, and that person typically has initial copyright ownership. Since you cannot copyright a business name, however, protection for a business name you wish to use is somewhat more formal and usually involves government registration. One of the first steps you should take to trademark a business name is to perform a trademark search to ensure there is not already a similar business with the same name registered. You cannot have the same name as a business in the same industry as you, so this search can help you eliminate possible names that are ineligible for trademark protection.
Though you cannot copyright a business name, you can use a similar process to begin establishing the trademark of your business name. If your business manufactures goods for sale, then you can begin to print the trademark symbol “™” along with your business name on any packaging and related materials for your products. This begins to establish your trademark in the public domain and indicates to others that you wish to protect the name and keep it unique. On the other hand, if you provide a service rather than manufacturing a product, then you can establish a service mark “SM” with your business name when it is printed on advertising materials.
You will also typically want to register your business name with a government agency for the primary country in which you wish to do business. In the US, for example, you can register a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office. You will have to fill out a number of forms and pay a filing fee, but once your business name is registered, then you can use the “®” mark to indicate ownership of the name.
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