by Matt Alderton | March 13, 2019
William Shakespeare famously asked, "What's in a name?" When you run a business, the answer is easy: Everything.
Whether your company is large or small, its name is intimately tied up with its reputation, its reach and its revenue. As a business owner, it should therefore be a top priority to protect it by filing for a trademark.

"You've heard the horror stories: Small businesses being sued for trademark infringement and having to rebrand their businesses. That means redoing marketing materials, changing domain names and a myriad of other nightmarish tasks -- all because the business owner failed to file for trademark protection," author Nellie Akalp writes in an article for Small Business Trends. "Think of your trademark like planting a tree in your garden. The trademark represents your brand, and you need to protect it and maintain it so it grows and blooms."

First of all, a definition: A trademark, Akalp says, is "a word, phrase, name or symbol that identifies a company, a product or a service and distinguishes it from competitors." You can therefore trademark not only your company name, but also the names of your products and services, as well as any associated logos or taglines.

Akalp walks you through the process: First, visit the website of the United States Patent & Trademark Office, where you can search existing trademarks to see if yours is available. If it is, follow the instructions for filing a trademark application online.

"During the application process, you'll be asked to upload files depicting your trademark," Akalp explains. "If your business has already begun, you'll also need to show evidence of the trademark appearing in your marketing materials, correspondence and website."

If you're granted your trademark, the next most important step is to use it. "Use your trademark extensively so as to keep it in the public eye," Akalp advises. "Why is this important? The U.S. trademark system is based on use. If another company files for the same trademark and can prove you have not used your trademark consistently and in a high-quality manner, you could lose your rights to it."

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