While National Small Business Month is still a ways away, there is no time like the present to start a new business. In fact, many people view a new business venture as one of their New Year’s resolutions. But as you begin putting your plan into action, creating and maintaining a unique brand is likely one of your biggest questions. With that, it is important to know the difference between a trade name and a trademark.

This post will briefly highlight them and explain the difference between the two. 

First, a trade name is the official name of a business that is commonly filed with the California Secretary of State. Before incorporating a business as a corporation, partnership or limited liability company, the secretary of state will conduct a search to determine if the chosen name is available or is currently in use. If the name is available, the business will be incorporated. This allows protection of the name and prevents other businesses from using it in a commercial setting.

While a trade name offers protection in California, it does not provide such protection in other states. Further, any symbols, logos or marks associated with the name are not protected. This is why a trademark is important. A trademark provides the owner with exclusive rights to its use and prevents anyone else from using it, regardless if they reside in California or not. In essence, a trademark will be enforced at the state and federal levels.

If you have additional questions about trademarks and trade names, an experienced intellectual property attorney can advise you.