When my wife and I were expecting our first son, we came up with a list of potential names, debated the pros and cons of each name and then decided on one we both liked. Similarly, entrepreneurs think long and hard in order to choose a perfect name for their start-ups. There is a crucial difference between choosing a name for your child and choosing a name for your business, however. When our son told us one of his classmates had the same first name, my wife and I didn’t worry about getting sued or whether we needed to change our son’s name. If you find out that a competing business has a similar name, though, you may not be so lucky. There is a distinction between your company’s legal (or corporate) name and your company’s trademark. The legal name is the name you on your articles of incorporation, certificate of formation or other formation document that is on file with the Secretary of State’s office. In contrast, trademarks are the words, images, symbols and designs the company presents to the public. Sometimes, a legal name and trademark can be the same (Google’s legal name is Google Inc.), but these can be different. For example, Kleenex and Huggies are trademarks owned by Kimberly-Clark Corporation and TJ Maxx is a trademark of TJC Operating Companies, Inc. Just because the Secretary of State allows you to adopt a particular legal name, that does not mean you will have permission to use that legal name as your trademark. Furthermore, registering a domain name does not ensure that you will have the right to use that domain name as your trademark. As a consequence, before adopting a trademark (and incurring the costs associated with developing the brand and marketing that name), you should at a minimum check the United States Patent and Trademark Office to see if there are any confusingly similar trademarks in existence. You should not rely exclusively on the trademark search, however, because your search probably will not find similar looking or sounding trademarks. For example, searching the word “Lift” would not find the existing trademarks for the word “Lyft.” In addition to doing a trademark clearance search, you may also want to apply for registration of your trademark. For assistance with this process, please contact Douglas Park Law.