How to Copyright a Name: The Complete Guide to Protecting Your Brand Identity

How to Copyright a Name: The Complete Guide to Protecting Your Brand Identity

How to Copyright a Name: The Complete Guide to Protecting Your Brand Identity

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Choosing the perfect name for your business, product, or creative work is a big deal. You want something unique, memorable, and meaningful. But once you’ve settled on “the one”, how do you make sure no one else can use it?

That’s where copyright comes in.

Copyright law allows you to protect original names and prevent others from using them without permission. However, navigating the copyright process can be confusing.

In this complete guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know on how to copyright a name, from coming up with name ideas to officially registering your copyright.

Complete Guide To Copyrighting A Name For Brand Identity.

Why Bother With Copyrighting a Name?

You may be wondering if it’s worth the time and effort to copyright a name.

After all, it’s not like people are lining up to steal “Bob’s Plumbing” or “Susie’s Cupcakes”.

Well, probably not. But big brands like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Apple have all faced trademark infringement lawsuits from companies trying to profit off their famous names.

And while your business may not be a multi-billion dollar brand (yet!), you still need to protect your intellectual property.

Here are three key reasons to copyright a name:

Prevent Copycats

The last thing you want is to spend years building name recognition only to have some Johnny-come-lately swoop in with a similar name to piggyback off your branding.

Copyrighting your name makes it illegal for others to use an identical or very similar name for commercial purposes without your permission.

Build Business Value

Your business name, logo, tagline, and other branding elements have real monetary value. In fact, Coca-Cola’s brand alone is worth $59.2 billion!

Securing a copyright establishes you as the sole owner of the brand identity you are creating. If you ever want to franchise or sell your business, this can pay off.

Gain Legal Recourse

If someone does use your copyrighted name without permission, having that official government registration gives you the legal standing to take them to court.

The copyright office listing serves as undisputed proof that you came up with the name first.

So, while the process takes a bit of time and money upfront, it’s worth it for the right to defend your intellectual property under the law.

How to Come Up With a Copyrightable Name

Before you can copyright a name, you need a name to copyright!

With over 9 million business names registered in the United States alone, finding something unique yet meaningful is a challenge.

Here are some tips for brainstorming a copyrightable name:

Get Creative With Language

Look beyond just descriptive words for your industry. Get creative with:

  • Rhymes: Flickr, Etsy
  • Alliteration: PayPal, Pinterest
  • Made-up Words: Google, Squarespace
  • Foreign Words: Ikea, H&M
  • Phrases: Wine to Water, Build-a-Bear Workshop

Research Extensively

Just because you haven’t heard of a business name doesn’t mean it’s not already in use somewhere. Thoroughly research any name ideas across:

  • Trademark Databases
  • Google Searches
  • Social Media Sites
  • Domain Name Registrars

Seek Professional Help

If you’re really struggling, consider hiring a professional naming agency. They can generate hundreds of customized name ideas along with full trademark screening. Costs range from $5,000-$100,000+.

How to Check if a Name is Taken

Once you have a business name in mind, it’s essential to thoroughly vet it before moving forward.

Here are the two key places to check if your preferred name is taken:

USPTO Trademark Database

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers a free Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) where you can search their database of registered trademarks.

Be sure to search for your name idea in various formats and classes to catch all potential conflicts.

For example, searching “Apple” in the computer software class turns up the famous tech company. But searching it in the fruit and produce class reveals several other registered trademarks.

Domain Name Registrars

Even if a name doesn’t have an official trademark, someone may already own the “.com” and other major domain extensions.

Cross-reference your preferred names on sites like GoDaddy and Namecheap to see if the domains are available for purchase.

If your ideal domain is taken, you may need to get creative with extensions like .net, .co, etc.

How to Copyright a Name

Once you’ve settled on an original, non-trademarked business name, it’s time to make it officially yours through copyright registration.

Here’s the step-by-step process:

 Complete a Copyright Application

You can register a copyright online through the U.S. Copyright Office website

The application asks for key details, including:

  • The name you want to copyright
  • Your full legal name
  • Description of what’s being copyrighted (i.e. “business name”)

This process costs $55 at the time of writing.

Submit a Copy of the Name

Along with the application, you’ll need to provide an official copy of the name you want copyrighted.

For a business name, this would likely be a logo file, letterhead, or other branding material showing the name in writing.

Await Review Process

It takes the copyright office an average of 7 months to review applications.

Once approved, you’ll receive an official certificate of registration showing you as the copyright owner.

Defend Your Copyright

Your name is now legally registered! But to enforce your copyright, use the © symbol and registration number when publicly displaying the name.

You can also choose to file lawsuits against any unauthorized use of the copyrighted name.

Copyrighting a Name vs. Trademarking

Copyright and trademark provide overlapping protections for business names. But there are some key differences:

  • Copyright protects original creative works
  • Trademark protects brand identifiers
  • Copyright is automatic
  • Trademark requires registration
  • Copyright has no use requirement
  • Trademark requires ongoing commercial use
  • Copyright lasts 70+ years
  • Trademark lasts indefinitely with continued use

Many businesses choose to get both copyright and trademark to maximize legal protection. But if you had to pick one, a trademark generally provides a stronger defence for brand names.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How long does it take to copyright a name?

It typically takes the copyright office around 7 months to review applications. Once approved, you’ll receive an official copyright registration certificate.

What happens if I don’t register my copyright?

You automatically get copyright protection as soon as you create an original work. However, registering the copyright provides important legal benefits if you need to defend it in court.

Can I copyright a name that’s already trademarked?

No, you cannot copyright a name that has already been trademarked by another owner. Doing so would infringe on their existing trademark rights.

Protecting Your Business Name

Coming up with a creative, memorable name is just the first step. Taking the right legal steps to protect it is just as crucial.

Following this guide will ensure you can copyright your business name or other creative work the right way.

And you’ll gain peace of mind knowing that all your hard work building name recognition won’t go to waste.

Now, get out there and make a name for yourself! Just be sure it’s your own.

Konger Avatar
8 months ago

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*The information this blog provides is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as financial or professional advice. The information may not reflect current developments and may be changed or updated without notice. Any opinions expressed on this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s employer or any other organization. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this blog without first seeking the advice of a professional. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this blog. The author and affiliated parties assume no liability for any errors or omissions.