Palo Alto Software, Inc.
Used by permission
How would I protect my
business name? I live in Chicago, IL.
I can give you a quick summary, but please understand that I am not an
attorney, this is not legal advice, just a friendly answer to an honest
question. I'm trying to help but I might be wrong.
What I understand is that you ultimately, really protect your business
name only by using it. Corporations are registered by states, and
ficticious business names are registered in counties. Registering a name
doesn't really protect it though, because the same name could legally
exist in many other states, many other counties.
You could be Acme Corporation in Illinois and legally own that
corporation in that state, but there could be another Acme Corporation
in every other state, and every one of them is legal until you win a
lawsuit proving that they are trading on the commercial interests you
own. When you really get protection is when you use that name, and
therefore when you find somebody else using it you can prove that you
had it first, so they are trading on your name. There are lots of
McDonald's restaurants around, and McDonald's can't stop them from using
that name if they had it early enough, and especially if they aren't
pretending to be a fast foods hamburger joint. The attempt to confuse is
One thing I learned the hard way, making my own way with my own
business: sometimes you need to ask an attorney. So many of us skimp on
legal fees and look for ways around it, but we live in a new age and
attorneys are an essential part of the business landscape.
They aren't all like the stereotype. I work with a local attorney who is
smart, honest, and very professional. He is expensive but his advice has
saved me more money than his bills have cost me.
With a lot of the questions we get on the ask-the-expert service we
could give you our amateur guesswork on handling legal problems, but it
would be doing you no favor. We don't have an attorney as one of the
experts, so we don't answer legal questions.
To find an attorney, insist on good recommendations from formal clients.
You need to take the time to find someone with small business
experience. Check the recommendations well.
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