Protect your trademark, and those of others, in business launch

It takes a long time and a lot of planning to start a business. Whether you run a company offering services or have a great product to sell, you have put a lot of time and thought into your venture.

But there are details you can't forget to take care of.

Once you've settled on a business name that best reflects your mission and focus, you can't just get the business cards printed. There are steps to take: ensure the name is properly registered and protected, and also check to see if a domain name for your soon-to-be website is available.

But how do you get to that name?

First, visualize how it will look in your logo, on social media and online. Is it compatible with search engines? For example, if your business repairs German-made cars, perhaps "John's Car Repair" isn't the best name for your business. A Volkswagen, BMW or Mercedes-Benz owner is more likely to search for "fix German car" or "German car repair" – not by your name. Then, run it by friends to make sure they don't see any problems you might not have thought of. Whereas you might see a dream name, friends might see one that could be considered socially incorrect. Ask them, as well, if the name conveys your business purpose and if it sounds professional.

Once you've settled on a name, check for trademark infringement. If someone already has registered it, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's search tool will show you if the name, or one similar, already is taken.

Also, search it online to see if the website name is taken. If it isn't, do a domain name search through a web host, such as GoDaddy.com, to see if it is available. As part of your online presence, also claim your name for social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Once all that is done, you'll need to register your business name by filing paperwork with the appropriate jurisdiction to get a DBA (Doing Business As) certification. And finally, you'll want to apply for trademark protection. Your name and logo are valuable.

Protecting your business identity with a trademark is important. So is making sure you aren't violating the trademark of another business. In this crucial step, a consultation with a trademark attorney could be a wise step to take.

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