The terms brand, product and business are often used interchangeably when they’re referred to by name, but from a legal point of view, they’re very different things. You need to understand those differences or your business, brand, and products could be in jeopardy in the future.
What is a business name?
Your business name (also referred to as your trade name) is the name that you register with your state to operate. You use it on your bank account, your tax forms, and other legal documents. For example, Nike, Inc. is the business name of the Nike company.
What is a brand name?
A brand name is the name that you use to identify the family of products or services that you offer or a single line of products or services that you offer. For example, Nike is the brand name used on most products manufactured by Nike, Inc. In this example, the business name and brand name are the same.
However, a business name and brand name don’t have to be the same. Many companies have many brands. For example, Apple is a company with many brands such as iPad, iPhone, iPod, and Mac.
What is a product name?
A product name could be as generic as “car” but with so many products and services on the market, businesses create more unique product names to differentiate their products from competitors’ products. In this case, a product name identifies a specific product or service and becomes a brand name when the company starts using it.
For example, the Toyota company operates using Toyota as its company name, and its products are cars. To differentiate its cars from the competition, the company brands them with the Toyota brand name (in addition to its Lexus and Scion brand families), and within the Toyota brand family, there are sub-brands like Corolla, Camry, and Sienna. But that’s not all. Within those sub-brands, there are specific product models like the Toyota Sienna CE, the Toyota Sienna LE, and so on.
A company’s brand architecture can get as deep as a well-researched family tree!
Bottom-line, your business name, brand name, and product or service name could all match, but they don’t have to. They’re different things and whether or not they match, they all need to be properly cleared for use and protected or you could find yourself in expensive trouble in the future.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Business Name
You need to clear your business name at the state level to start operating, and you need to determine if you’ll be using your business name as a brand name, too. If so, make sure you follow the steps in #2 below.
2. Brand Name
You need to do a comprehensive trademark search to ensure your brand name is clear for you to use and then apply for a trademark registration for that name so you can protect it and grow your brand in the future.
3. Product Name
Once you start using a product name in the marketplace, it becomes a brand name and should be cleared and protected as a valuable company asset. You should conduct a trademark search to ensure the name is clear for you to use. Once the name is cleared, you should apply for a trademark registration for that name so you can protect it and grow it as a brand in the future.
Article is written on September 22, 2019 by Kelley Keller