When business interests and estates combine

When business interests and estates combine

As we work with clients in developing their estate plan, we often talk with those that are considering starting, or have already started, a new business venture. For the next few columns, we’ll discuss topics relevant to business owners and business owners to be.

Typically, the name of a business is one of the first issues resolved, but very often clients give little thought on how to protect that name. Usually that is because they don’t think there is much to protect, or they are too busy with other matters. However, there is no better time to protect the name than the start of its use because merely using a name in business does not automatically mean it is protected. Additional effort is required, especially if the business intends to expand its geographic reach or protect against other businesses expanding in the same region.

Before discussing the effort required to protect a name, let us first make certain we understand how businesses can be named. Of course, a business can be the same name as is registered with the secretary of state. However, a business also has the option to use another name if the owners choose; you might think of the second name like the business’ nickname.

In business, that nickname is called a trade name. A trade name is a word or a name used to identify and distinguish a business, vocation or occupation from others. For example, The Daily Sentinel is the name of the paper and the name we all use when talking about the newspaper, but it is not the name of the company that publishes it. When there is a difference between the name of the company and the name under which it does business, the latter name is designated as its trade name. In this context, you might have also heard reference to a “DBA” (an acronym for “doing business as”) that is often used interchangeably with the term “trade name.”

And one more clarification always proves useful for our clients to understand: A trade name is not necessarily the same thing as a trademark. Next column, we’ll discuss that important difference and provide more information about protecting a business’ investment in its name and its brand.

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 Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Santa Ana, California. Email bwright@gllblaw.com or steve@wrightlawidaho.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.

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