Differences between trademarks, business names and domain names

The registration of business names, domain names and trademarks occurs on separate and unrelated registers that are not officially cross-checked against each other. That’s why it’s very important to firstly know the difference between them and to know how to proceed afterwards.

The main purpose of registering a business name is ultimately to ensure that consumers and other companies know exactly who they are trading with. It’s also important to properly identify the registrant of the business name. There are however major misconceptions amongst traders regarding the purpose and function of business names. The most common misconception is that business name registration provides immunity from infringement of others’ rights and gives exclusivity to the name.

Domain name applications must be checked in order to ensure that the domain name is not identical or similar to a registered company or business name owned by another person. The growth in the use of domain names appears to have increased the number of bad faith registrations and further raised concerns that trademark owners’ rights are increasingly infringed or diluted by the use of trademarks in domain names.

A trademark is a sign used to distinguish the goods and services of one trader from those of another. The objective of a registered trade mark is to generate goodwill associated with its products and services, to protect the goodwill from abuse by others, and equally to protect the consumer by indicating the trade source of the goods or services.

It’s advisable to check all of these registers before proceeding with a new trademark. We can assist with these checks so don’t hesitate to contact us.

Let’s now tackle the main subject of these article by answering the following question: What is the difference between business name, domain name and brand/trademark?

Business name: Legal name of the company, registered in a certain state.

Domain name: Name of your address on the Web.

Trademark: A trademark may be one word, a combination of words, or logos (or even sounds and smells) used to distinguish/differentiate your products or services from those of other entities.

It would be easy to assume that they are all one and the same. But if you are in the process of starting a new business, there are some key differences between these three entities that you need to know.

Your trademark or brand name is who you are to your customers. It is the pillar your business’s public image will be built around. You benefit from the exclusive right to use certain words, phrases, symbols, or designs to identify your business. Invented names are by far the easiest to trademark, and receive the most ironclad protections, as they are completely unique, and don’t contain commonly trademarked keywords.

A business name is the legally registered name of your business. You’ll use your business name to create contracts, open business bank accounts, pay taxes, and any other administrative related activities. If you want to obtain a business name, you will need to determine whether or not it is available.

You don’t have to register a business in every state, only the state where you have a physical business presence. For instance, if you are an e-commerce business that has customers across the country, you only have to register in the state you operate from.

Most business names contain the business’s brand name, followed by the company’s chosen business structure. But they don’t necessarily have to be the same. In some cases, the business name is completely different from the brand name. This is most common in large businesses that have multiple brands housed under a single parent company.

A domain name is your website name – the internet address where people can access your website. The name can be any combination of letters, numbers, and dashes (though most good business domain names consist solely of letters). A top-level domain (TLD) is the last part of a domain name that follows immediately after the “dot” symbol. Examples of TLDs include .com, .org, .net, .gov, .biz and .edu.

For businesses, .com domains are highly preferred for their familiarity and credibility. To acquire a domain name, you need to register it at a domain name registrar. But first you need to find out if it is available to register. Most good business domains have already been registered. Luckily, many of these names are still for sale by their owners.

You can find many brandable domain names for sale at premium domain name marketplaces. However, you should make sure your domain doesn’t infringe on anybody else’s trademarks, or you could be required to surrender it in the future.

Hopefully, we brought a glimpse of light in discerning between trademarks, business names and domain names. And remember, you can contact us anytime for the necessary check-ups.