Starting a Business

Protecting Your Trademark

Keep another company from stealing your pending trademarked name without spending a dime.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the September 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Q: I own a New York state trademark, and the U.S. trademark for the same name is pending. Recently, a company started using my exact business name, but in the plural form. I do not have money for legal fees. What should I do?

A: Since you can't afford legal fees, you probably shouldn't threaten the offending party with a lawsuit. But there are things you can do. First, learn all you can about this company. Find out if it has a website. Do some searching online at D&B and at the online versions of business and trade publications and newspapers. You may discover that the company is completely different than your own--and because the law allows noncompeting products and services to use the same name (think Ford Motor Co. and Ford Gum Co.), you actually have no dispute.

If you find this business is similar enough to your own that it could create confusion and cost you sales, write a letter, and point out your earlier use and registration of the name. Also, describe the kind of business you're in, and request that the infringing company stop using your trademarked name. Many companies, particularly smaller ones fearing the consequences, may change their names. This happens all the time.

If one letter doesn't work, send another and another. Your repeated letters will keep the problem alive until they act.

You might find that the company values your trademarked name so much that it wishes to buy your rights. Given your lack of money at this point, this may be just what you need.

Authors and career coaches Paul and Sarah Edwards' new book is The Best Home Businesses for People 50+. Send them your questions at or in care of Entrepreneur.

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