I would like to trade mark my last name as it would identify with my future branding. Would this be best doing as an individual or as an established LLC.
1 Answer from Attorneys
Setting up a business entity really has no bearing on trademark rights. You do this to protect personal assets from exposure.
Assuming you wish to register your mark federally, which you should do, in most cases you will first clear the mark, then set up the LLC, then register the mark under the business name as an asset of that business.
Before you invest in any trademark make sure you get some legal guidance upfront. It is of course best practice to clear it before you start using any trademark and starting with a strong one is your best strategy. Know as well that merely registering your business name with a state or county agency or acquiring a domain does not convey any right to use that name in commerce as a source identifier or trademark. For example, I can presumably register my new tech start up "Boogle" with the WI secretary of state because there is no other business already doing business there under that name, but this does not mean that I would not be infringing on the Google trademark, which I would be. The onus is on you to ensure the name you choose is not a problem.
Your trademark will be one of if not the most important and valuable business assets you will have and you will ultimately spend more money in support if it than you will anywhere else (advertising, marketing, PR, branding, packaging, etc.). So you owe it to your business and yourself to make sure you handle this properly upfront and the first order of business always starts with a proper and comprehensive clearance.
Whenever you endeavor into investing in a trademark it is very important that you conduct the proper clearance due diligence on all the text names upfront and before you start spending any money in support of it or submit an application to the USPTO. In the US, this means searching under both federal (USPTO) as well as common law because trademark rights stem from use in this country NOT registration. This means that acquiring a federal registration does not necessarily mean that you are not infringing on another's intellectual property.
If you need more clarification, I suggest that you consult with a lawyer in private and discuss your objectives in more detail. You can start by calling around to several for a free consultation, get some insights then pick the best fit to work with and know you are free to work with counsel located anywhere as you have many options available not just those that provide services in your home state.
If you would like to discuss further over a free phone consult, feel free to contact me anytime that is convenient.
Our firm is now referred by the American Bar Association (see under the New York section): http://www.americanbar.org/groups/delivery_legal_services/resources/programs_to_help_those_with_moderate_income.html
DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of this posting.
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