Corporate Names Cannot be Trademarked

According to trademark law, a trademark’s sole purpose is to identify the source of a product or service rather than identifying the company itself.

12-16-register mark So I am not allowed to trademark my company name, Signature Strategies LLC, but I could  trademark Signature Strategies as a service.

I know that’s a little confusing so I’ll try to elaborate.

Whenever you use your corporate name followed by its legal designation (Inc., Company, LLC, Ltd or another designation that your name modifies) that is a “trade name”. In this form it does not identify the source of a product or service, rather it identifies my corporation’s entity. In my case, Signature Strategies is an adjective phrase modifying LLC.

But I could probably trademark “Signature Strategies” as a source of branding and positioning knowledge and experience. In other words, I shouldn’t say, “Signature Strategies® is a branding firm”, but I can say “Signature Strategies® services can help you profit from the power of branding”. In this way it identifies the source of a service, not the business itself.

The Coca Cola Company just happens to have a product by the same name. Thus the product is trademarked but the company name is not. If you’d look at a Coca Cola Company business card you would see that the name, Coca Cola Company is not accompanied by a registration mark. But if the product were also on the card, in its distinctive logo format and color, it would have a trademark registration behind it. That logo, if complying strictly to the trademark code, would be visually removed from the corporate name and address.

Certainly, Coca-Cola Company cannot protect its corporate name. It just that that protection will not come from a trademark.

I’m not a legal eagle. I’d say its best to get advice from an intellectual properties attorney to determine the best way to protect your corporate name. But an alternate source might be LegalZoom. This outfit has lots of info on it’s website as well as services to help you with trademarks, incorporation and registrations. (Note that I’ll make a commission on any sales they make through this link).

Also, think ahead. If your company name is also the name of your first product, as in Coke’s case, your naming considerations will be slightly different than if your products or services were to be named separately from the corporate name.

This factor should be considered in your naming brief, the document that will direct your naming effort.

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2 thoughts on “Corporate Names Cannot be Trademarked

  1. So, I created a company named Flicker Films, but I have heard of one or two other companies that use the same name. Is this a problem, if they were to be trademarked?
    Please reply!

  2. Sorry, Torin…

    This is an issue you should take up with your intellectual properties lawyer.

    Martin J

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