Business owners and attorneys, alike, often confuse trade names with trademarks. Sometimes, they can be the same name but their legal significance is quite different.
Many businesses have a legal name but do not carry out business or hold themselves out to the public with that name. Instead, these businesses use their trade names. For example, suppose I own Ginny Cascio, LLC that operates an art gallery. I advertise my gallery to the public as “Ginny’s Fine Art” and do business solely under this name. “Ginny’s Fine Art” is my trade name. Most states require businesses to register their trade names with their legal names. This allows the state and the public to discover the true identity of the legal entity, when they only know the trade name.
Trademarks, on the other hand, also identify one’s business but have a different legal significance. A trademark protects a word, symbol, or other distinguishing mark that is used to identify a good or service which is sold. If a business obtains trademark rights, either through common or statutory law, it may prevent others from using that mark as well as a mark that is confusingly similar to consumers. However, not all trade names become trademarks. Trademark law establishes certain requirements that must be met in order to have trademark protection For example, “Ginny’s Fine Art” would probably not receive trademark protection because it does not meet the requirements of trademark law.
For more information about these issues, please contact Ginny Cascio at (240) 778-2308 or firstname.lastname@example.org.