It’s 2021. Do You Own You?
The first question we ask in 2021 is “Do you own you?”
As the largest Black owned bank in America and first Black owned digital bank, we want to make sure our community owns the brands we build. Many times, we do not take the necessary steps to secure the ownership of our name. Let’s say your #OneTransaction to close the racial wealth gap for your family is a profitable business with a great brand name. Do you own your brand? And what does “owning” mean?
Here are 3 steps that you can take to secure your ownership rights:
Search Your Brand Name
Trademark law prevents a business from using a name that is likely to be confused with the name of a competing business. If you choose a business name that’s too similar to a competitor’s name, you might find yourself accused of violating the competitor’s legal rights (called “trademark infringement” or “unfair competition”), and you could be forced to change your business name and possibly pay money damages.
So, do some digging to avoid the wrong name choice.
- Search Engine
Type the name into Google to see whether someone else is using a similar name to market similar products or services. If you find that your name (or a very similar name) is already being used, you must choose another name.
- Federal Trademark Search
Search for federally registered trademarks by using the free trademark database of the United States Patent & Trademark Office (or USPTO). Click HERE for a Basic Search.
- Fictitious Name Search
Check with your city/county/state clerk’s office to see whether your desired name is already on the list of fictitious or assumed business names in your community. These names are usually unregistered trademarks of very small companies. If you find that your chosen name (or a very similar name) is listed on a local fictitious or assumed name register, you shouldn’t use it.
- Corporation or LLC Name Search
If you’re organizing your business as a corporation, LLC or limited partnership, check to make sure your name isn’t the same as an existing corporation, LLC, or limited partnership in your state. Contact your state filing office to find out how to search their name database. If your proposed name (or a very similar one) shows up in your state’s database, you’ll have to choose another name.
Register Your Brand Domain Name
- The easiest way is to check if a domain name is available is at one of the dozens of online companies that have been approved to register domain names. A listing of these registrars can be accessed at the ICANN website. An example of a domain name register is Network Solutions.
- You can go to the Network Solutions (www.networksolutions.com) and key in the name you want to use. If your domain name is available, buy it immediately! The cost is relatively low for you to own your domain name.
- If your domain name is not available, see if the website is currently in use. If yes, chances are you won’t be able to use the name. If no, the owner may be willing to sell you the domain name for prices that range from a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars depending on the name. You can typically locate information about the owner of the domain name by using Whois.net. Type in the domain name and the website provides the contact information supplied by the domain name registrant.
- Be flexible about your business name. If your current choice is being used, try, try again. It’s more important that you identify a name that you can trademark and also own the domain name – to make sure that you own you!
Trademark Your Brand Name
- Once you completed the research, you are now ready to trademark your name to secure your rights to the name! We recommend hiring an intellectual property attorney. The National Black Lawyers (NBL) has a great website for finding an attorney in your area. Click HERE and search for an “Intellectual Property” attorney. Or you can ask your local chamber of commerce for recommendations. The cost for an attorney to file a trademark can range from $1,000 to $1,500 plus filing fees.
- You can also complete the trademark registration yourself at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office HERE. Filing fees apply.
You will spend a lot of time and energy building your business and your brand. It is a OneTransaction to close the racial wealth gap. As the largest Black owned bank in America and first Black owned digital bank, we want to make sure our community owns the brands we build. It’s important that you own you!