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Trade Names and Trademarks- When Business Interests and Estates Combine (Part 3)

Last column we discussed how a business owner, or estate, can protect a trade name used to market the business’ products or services. In this column, we’ll address the difference between a trade name and a trademark and, hopefully, remind you to discuss the value of each with your estate planning attorney as you develop your estate plan.

From our last column, you know that a trade name is the name under which a business operates; the best known trade names provide the broadest protection against competition. McDonald’s, Nike, and United Airlines are all recognizable trade names and no competitor can use any similar name without violating the law.  But unless your business has a name that recognizable, your trade name may not provide you or your estate with much protection.

A trademark, by comparison, can provide additional protection because it can associate logos, symbols or phrases with a trade name; and, often, that trademark can then be used to identify a particular product or service.  If properly handled, that trademark then ties the product or service to a company, even though the name of the company is not mentioned at all.

For example, we just referred to Nike as one of the most recognizable company names, but rather than print its name on every article of clothing or equipment it produces, it utilizes what we all have come to call the “swoosh” symbol (which is similar to a rounded checkmark) as its trademark. In doing so, Nike establishes brand recognition in the marketplace with just a symbol.

When it comes to understanding the value associated with trade names and trademarks, what’s important to remember is that they are different and that each provides a different type of protection.  And while the owner of a business may understand that difference, and the value of each, those who take care of her or his estate can often forget about such things.  To help protect against that mistake, you can consult with a reputable estate planning attorney who can ensure that your business trade name and trademark(s) are properly identified and protected and that the value associated with each is addressed in your estate plan. Failure to include such detail in your estate plan does not render the plan useless, but it could represent a lost opportunity to capture additional value.

© 2016 Steven J Wright  

Further Reading

What You Don’t Know That You Don’t Know

Think You Don’t Need An Estate Plan?

Why You Are The Biggest Threat To Your Estate Plan

 Why You Need a Will

Why You Don’t Need A Trust for Your Estate Plan

Why You Need a Trust for Your Estate Plan

Are You Prepared for the Threats to Your Estate?

How Your Family Can Inadvertently be a Threat to Your Estate- Part 1

How Your Family Can Inadvertently be a Threat to Your Estate- Part 2

How Your Family Can Inadvertently be a Threat to Your Estate- Part 3

When Business Interests and Estates Combine- Part 1

When Business Interests and Estates Combine- Part 2

When Business Interests and Estates Combine- Part 3

So Who Gets the Home?

Have you Had the “Talk” with Your Children?