In latest edition of The Wright Toolbox:
Protecting Your Business Name
You are determined to finally start that new business this year. Besides preparing a viable business plan for your new venture, it is imperative that you check the availability of the name you would like to use for your new entity. The State Department of Assessments and Taxation will either accept or reject a proposed entity name or trade name for businesses in Maryland. This screening process for similar names was diluted a few years ago to provide that proposed names be “distinguishable upon the department’s record” from the names of entities previously organized or authorized to transact business in Maryland. A proposed name is considered “distinguishable” if it is distinctive from any other name on the department records meaning that a comparison of the two names reveals the presence of a letter or numeral in one that is not in the other. Under the newer rules, it is possible to have similar names with different endings representing the different type of entity. For example ABC, Inc. will be accepted for filing by the department despite the existence of ABC, LLC.
Unfortunately, the acceptance by the department of a name similar to another business may still infringe on a federally registered trademark, service mark or the common law rights obtained by the use of the name by another business. Thus, the simple acceptance of a corporate filing approving your new name does not protect your entity from an infringement suit. It is therefore strongly recommended that an independent search of existing business names, service marks and trademarks be conducted prior to the initial filing. An initial search can be done at the United States Patent and Trademark Office at no charge. For a complete and up to date search, there are private search firms such as Thomson & Thomson which will charge a fee for the search.
To protect your entity name or trade name in the State of Maryland, the initial filing papers for the entity, i.e. Articles of Incorporation for a corporation, Articles of Organization for a limited liability company, should be filed with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation. In addition, a trade name application should be filed with the same department and a service mark application filed with the Secretary of State for the State of Maryland. The service mark application may only be filed after your business has been operating and using the requested mark. The applications are inexpensive and simple to file. For national protection, your trademark should be registered with the Federal Office of Patents and Trademarks. Our firm can help with all the necessary filings.
If you have any questions, please contact Neil Lanzi, at email@example.com or (410) 659-1390.