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The Name Game

Want to expand your trademark globally? Watch your step—or you'll be putting your name on the line.

This story appears in the April 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When you choose a name for a little storefront business, all you have to worry about is whether the name will resonate with customers and whether any similar business nearby uses the same name. But expanding across the nation or around the world requires an extensive trademark search to make sure no other company has priority rights to your trade name. Under the Madrid Protocol, which became effective in the United States on November 2, 2003, that process became more complicated.

Karen Artz Ash, partner and chair of the intellectual property department at Katten Muchin Zavis Rosenman, explains that, until last November, it wasn't possible to make a filing in the United States that would protect your trademark in other countries. You'd have to do a trademark search in each country, combing through its records to see whether any other company had the rights to your name, and then apply for trademark protection.

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