There’s great importance in protecting your brand
Last column we discussed a common problem where estate planning and business interests combine and focused on how a business owner, and his or her estate, can protect the name of the business. We’ll extend that idea in this column to how a business owner, (or the estate) can protect the company’s “brand,” meaning its name, its trade names, its trademarks and everything else the company does to market its products or services. A brand, even for a small company, is part of its value.
How does a business owner protect their brand from infringement or confusion caused by other companies’ similar names? The first step is to use the name in commerce (website, social media, letterhead, business cards, etc.). The second is to register the trade name with the state of Colorado, a step many businesses neglect to take. In Colorado, the registration process is fairly simple. All business entities, including sole proprietors and general partnerships, must register for trade name protection through the secretary of state’s website (www.sos.state.co.us.)
If you are questioning whether to register your trade name with the Colorado secretary of state, it may be helpful to understand that the fees are not significant ($20 as of the date of this publication), but the benefits can be. Registration of the trade name is not necessarily the final step in protecting your brand, but it adds an element of protection and is also one of the easiest ways to show the initial date a trade name was used.
If you have questions about how much protection your business name now has, or how you can increase that protection, spend some time on the Colorado secretary of state’s website and then talk to your attorney about the proper steps, if any, that you need to take to protect the investment you have made in your business name. If you are preparing your estate plan, consider the value that is included in your business’ brand. And if you are involved in the probate, or closing, of an estate, make certain that the brand is properly transferred to the new business owner.
Next column, we’ll wrap up this small detour into the world of small business ownership and address the difference between a trade name and a trademark and discuss how the business owner and their estate should handle the value created by both.
Brad and Steve Wright recently joined their business and estate planning practices, which include transactional and litigation matters with a special focus on estate planning, probate and business succession. Together they have offices in Grand Junction; Idaho Falls, Idaho; and Santa Ana, California. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if you have questions or topics you’d like to see addressed in future columns. You can also call 970-270-1213 or contact us at our new address: 529 25 1/2 Road, Suite B-210, Grand Junction 81505.