Select and Trademark Your Business Name

What’s in a Name?

Trademark names fall into three categories:

Trade names identify a company, e.g., the “Coca Cola Company” or “Computaire Services.” Any type of business may call itself a company.

Corporate names identify corporations, e.g., “Cabot Corporation” or “Marketing Concepts, Inc.” The words “Incorporated,” “Corporation,” or “Limited,” or their abbreviations, must appear in a corporate name and may not appear in the name of an unincorporated company.

Trademarks are any word, name, symbol, or device or any combination of these used to identify the goods of a business and distinguish those goods from the products of others. For example, the word “Kleenex” is a trademark. Similarly, there are service marks that may be used to identify and distinguish a business that provides a service rather than goods. For example, the word “Greyhound” is a service mark for transportation services.

Before You Trademark

When choosing a name for your business, look at types of names that are already being used by businesses similar to your own. You can find lists of business names at the Corporations Division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, your local city or town hall, in the library, in relevant trade journals and even in the telephone book. Massachusetts On-line Trademark Search.

Do everything you can within reason to assure that yours will be the only business of that type using a particular name. If you decide to incorporate your business, you must contact the Corporations Division. If you have decided on a name but are not yet ready to incorporate, you can reserve a name for 30 days. This registration will protect the business name from infringement while you prepare to incorporate and should be done before taking any other steps to do business in the state.

A corporate name may not be reserved by a telephone request. The reservation of a name for 30 days becomes effective only upon written request to the Corporations Division and payment of a $15.00 fee to:

Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office
Corporations Division
McCormack Building
One Ashburton Place, 17th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Toll Free: 1-800-392-6090 (within Massachusetts only)
Telephone: 617-727-7030

You will be prohibited from using a name if another corporation is already using it or one that is very similar. An exemption may be made if you are able to obtain a letter of consent from the other corporation giving you permission to use a similar name.

Protecting Your Trademark or Service Mark

You should consider protecting your right to any trademarks or service marks you may own. The quality and goodwill symbolized by a distinctive mark can be a very valuable commodity to a business and one worthy of protection. Non-profit organizations also have an interest in protecting their distinctive marks from unwanted infringement. Under the terms of the trademark law, Chapter 110B, there is no requirement that a trademark or service mark must be registered with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts .

Registering your mark in Massachusetts results in material advantages. A central card file is made available for public inspection in the Trademarks Division office. A person who might have otherwise used a mark identical or confusingly similar to yours may discover the prior use of the mark in a preliminary search of these files. This early warning could mean such a person would use a different mark and a possible controversy may be prevented. In addition, the Certificate of Registration creates certain presumptions of exclusive ownership of the mark that are of significant benefit to you in any type of dispute over your mark.

A mark must be in use in Massachusetts before it may be registered. A mark may then be registered by completing the appropriate trademark or service mark registration application form. The fee for filing is $50.00 and the effective term of the registration is 10 years, and the mark may be renewed every 10 years.

You can obtain these application forms as well as further information regarding trademarks or service marks by contacting:

Secretary of the Commonwealth
Trademarks Division
One Ashburton Place, Room 1717
Boston, MA 02108
Toll Free: 1-800-392-6090 (within Massachusetts only)
Telephone: 617-727-7030

For further information on registering your mark with the federal government, contact:

Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks
U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office
Crystal Plaza 3 2021 South Clark Place, Lobby Level
Arlington, VA 22202

For information relative to copyrights call Federal Copyright Information at (800) 688-9889 or write to:

Registrar Copyrights
Library of Congress
Washington, D.C. 20559
(202) 707-595