After you have researched whether or not your business name or idea is being used by anyone else, see How to Research Your Business Name and How to Research Your Business Idea, it is important to take measures to protect it appropriately.
If the idea is an invention, or improvement to an existing one, that is useful, novel, non-obvious, adequately described or enabled, and claimed by the inventor in clear and definite terms, then it may be patentable, and you should speak with an attorney right a way to discuss the patent application process. You may also consider applying for a provisional patent, which can protect your idea for the first twelve months and allow you to use the phrase “Patent Pending.”
If the idea is of the artistic or creative variety such as a painting, novel, or movie, then you should sit down with an attorney to discuss whether or not it is protected by copyright and whether or not it is a good idea to have the copyright registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. This is usually a straightforward process that can be done electronically.
If your idea is a name, slogan, symbol, sound, or other identifier for your business or its goods and services, then it may be protectable as a trademark. Trademark protections can exist under common law, state law, or federal law, so you should be sure to discuss what is most appropriate and cost-effective for your business with an attorney. Federal trademarks can be especially difficult and expensive to obtain and keep, so this will require some careful deliberation. You may also need to consider whether or not your business needs to be formed a particular way or if a trade name should be filed in order to help protect the name or aspects of the business idea.
If you are thinking about discussing or pitching your idea to others, you should seriously evaluate whether a Non-Disclosure Agreement or other form of confidentiality protection is suitable. These can help protect you from having your idea copied by those you discuss it with, but it can be a delicate issue to raise in front of friends, family, or potential business partners.
Remember that if you do not protect yourself, you could wind up finding yourself in a lengthy and costly court battle to stop someone from profiting off of your idea, and you still might lose. This business idea could be the livelihood of you and your family, so why risk losing it? Do not let this happen to you.
If you have questions about or need help with protecting your business name or idea, contact the Law Office of E.C. Lewis PC, home of your Denver Business Lawyer, Elizabeth Lewis, 720-258-6647 or email her at Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com.
If you have a particular name that you want to use or are already using for your business, it is important to act quickly to find out if anyone else is using that name. There a few simple research steps and searches that you can do yourself, right now, which can give you a better idea of the status of your business name.
Before getting started with these steps, it is essential to remember that you perform several different searches. Try alternative spellings, as well as putting in additional words that might make sense to be included within the name. Basically, you want to try and search for anything that might sound like or get confused with the name that you have selected.
The first step is easy enough, simply run a few searches with an online search engine, like Google, of the business name. Pay attention to the results for not only exact name matches but similar matches that are making or performing related goods or services to what you had in mind with the name.
Next you can try going to a domain name registration site, such as GoDaddy.com, and entering in your business name into the domain name search. This will let you know whether or not someone already owns that website domain. Remember to take note that even if your preferred domain like .com is available, be sure to look through the other search results to see if someone is using your business name in another domain like .net, .us or others.
Digging in a bit deeper with your research, you should go to the U.S. Patent Office website. Here you will be able to see if someone has previously trademarked your business name. To run the search, go to tmsearch.uspto.gov, then click on “Basic Word Mark Search” and start running different searches to see what names have been trademarked.
Now that you have searched the national trademark database, you will want to narrow down your research more locally. You can do this by visiting the website for the Office of the Secretary of State for each state that you are or might do business in. For example, the Colorado Secretary of State website is sos.state.co.us, and from there you can select “Businesses, trademarks, trade names,” then click on “Search business database.” Now you can run searches to see trademarks, trade names, and business names.
Following these steps will help you go from a broad to narrow perspective in your research, so that you can hone in on what exactly is happening with a particular business name. With all of this new information in hand, you can begin thinking more seriously about what to do next with your business name.
If you have any questions about what your research turned up or if you are ready to take the next step in forming your business or protecting a business name, do not hesitate to reach out to the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, PC, the home of your Denver Business Lawyer, Elizabeth Lewis at 720-258-6647 or email her at Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com.