It is not uncommon for people to use the terms Trademarks, Business and Domain Names interchangeably. On the surface, it may appear that the differences between these terms are minimal, if any. In fact, each one is its own unique legal entity with varying rights and benefits associated with it. Your California business is likely using all three – or, at least should. For this reason, it is important to understand the differences between these terms.
Business Entity Names
Generally, a business entity name is registered simultaneously with the formation of a separate legal entity with the state of California, through the secretary of state’s website. Common types of business entities include:
- Limited liability companies, and
A business entity is a separate legal entity that usually grants the owners, who may be officers, partners, or members, limited liability protection from the debts of the business. This protection is in place assuming all required business formalities are adhered to. If an owner personally guarantees a debt or engages in behavior that jeopardizes that protection, limited liability may not apply. Notwithstanding, it may not be feasible to prohibit someone else from using a confusingly similar name to your business.
A domain name is a sequence of letters and/or numbers that may be associated with one or more email addresses, may point to a website on the internet, or may point to services such as FTP. Generally, ICANN-accredited registrars register domain names. As a result of the centralized registration process, domain names differ from trademarks and business names because the rightful owner of a domain name can stop another from using it without having to go through the court system. However, almost anyone has the ability to buy your same domain name with a different ending (i.e. .com, .net. .org). Common law trademark rights, however, can be created with the use of a domain name.
Under United States law, there are two types of trademarks: state and federal.
A trademark that is registered in the state is only valid and, therefore, protected in that state. Generally, a state trademark is acquired when a business uses a trademark with the sale of goods or provision of services related to the enterprise. State trademarks are typically not required before use. Registered trademarks receive legal benefits that unregistered trademarks do not.
Federal trademarks afford the most protection, particularly because they are automatically valid throughout the country without having to register the trademark with the state. Owners of federal trademarks are granted the right to file for an injunction against someone using the trademark, use the trademark nationwide, file for monetary damages, and prohibit importation.
California Business Attorney
Even though domain names, trademarks and business entity names appear similar at first glance, there are significant differences. For this reason, it is important to retain a knowledgeable business attorney for your California enterprise before you begin investing capital in developing your business and its brand. Mr. Bassiri can explain to you in simple terms the distinctions between and among these different terms and the legal rights associated with each one. Click here or call (888) 530-2001 today to schedule your initial case evaluation.