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Q: I’m in the process of rebranding my business and
am closing in on a final company name with my team. Our top choice
for a name seems to be available for registration with the New
Hampshire Secretary of State, but I’m not sure if we need to
look elsewhere to confirm availability. Is there a way to determine
whether another company has rights to use the name?
A: In rebranding your business, it is important
to consider whether your new company name will infringe upon the
trademark rights of a third party.
Trademarks and service marks (collectively referred to here as
“trademarks” or “marks”) typically protect
brand names, logos, and slogans used in connection with goods and
services. Registering a trademark with the U.S. Patent and
Trademark Office (“USPTO”) provides the owner with an
exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with
the goods or services identified in the registration.
Regardless of whether a corporate name is available for
registration at the state level, a third party with superior
federal trademark rights might challenge your use of the name after
you have built up your new brand and could ultimately force you to
change the name in the event of a conflict. Given the time, energy,
and resources it takes to launch a rebrand, identifying conflicts
with any existing trademark rights upfront can save you some major
headaches down the road.
An experienced trademark attorney can help you conduct an
initial “screening” search of federal and state
registrations to identify problematic marks that are identical or
highly similar to your desired company name. Depending on the
results of the initial screening search, you may choose to do a
full comprehensive search as another level of clearance before
adopting the name. A comprehensive search is generally conducted
through a commercial search firm and covers a wide range of
databases, including state trade name and business name
registrations, web resources, and domain name records.
A well-conducted trademark search provides you with invaluable
insight for assessing the level of risk associated with your
desired company name and can help shape your rebranding efforts
going forward. In the event of a conflict, it is much easier (and
also less costly) to alter your rebranding strategy before a
company name is adopted and you have built up the new brand with
your customer base.
Published in the Manchester Union Leader, August 21,
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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