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Business Owners- What to Consider Before Trademarking Your Own Name


A trademark is a word or image that serves to inform consumers of the source of a product or service. Sometimes, an individual’s name identifies the business providing goods or services. Consider the likes of certain fashion house founders, such as Gabrielle Chanel, founder of the iconic Chanel brand, or Christian Dior of Dior. These brands, and countless brands we encounter daily, are instantaneously recognizable because of their trademarks. Because of this, trademarks are invaluable business assets.

A registered trademark gives the owner the exclusive right to use a business name in connection with the goods or services identified in the trademark registration. Although descriptive business names and personal names may be difficult to trademark, those names widely associated with goods or services that have acquired secondary meaning or are used in a way to distinguish it from its ordinary use may have an easier time receiving protection

So, what are the ramifications of trademarking your brand’s name when your brand’s name is your name? Such a question is not specific to the fashion industry, as trademarking your name can have implications across a broad range of industries, such as fashion, entertainment, automotive sales and more. The trademark registration process presents its own set of issues related to registering a trademark that is a personal name used for a business. However, an often overlooked and important concept worth considering is that trademarks achieve their own standing separate from the person the name came from. If a business owner chooses to sell their business, said business owner may be precluded from using their name in another similar business venture.

Perhaps this is best illustrated by example. John Smith started a small shoe business named “John Smith,” and he successfully registered his trademark- “John Smith.” After ten years, a company approached John Smith about purchasing his shoe business. John Smith sold the business, and all its assets (including the trademark), to the company.  After a year, and missing the design business, John Smith decided to start a new design venture focusing on socks, naming it “John Smith.” Because John Smith sold his former business, he would not be able to start a new business under the same name while providing the same or similar goods as his former company.

This example is meant to illustrate that, as a business owner choosing to form a business using one’s name, it is always important to consider possible future endeavors. Selling your business that bears your name may have limiting effect on future ventures. A trademark can be your business’s most valuable asset. When registering a trademark, it is best to consult with an attorney to assist in the process. While spending a few hundred dollars on trademark registration may seem like a lot to a new business, receiving proper guidance through the registration process will pay off in the end.

For more information regarding this or any other business law concern, please give us a call at 404-255-7400 or info@hoffmanestatelaw.com.