Can You Trademark a Business Name That Already Exists?

If you're wondering if you can register something that already exists, the simple answer is no. Before you start the process of trademarking your business name, it's important to search the USPTO trademark database to see if this brand is already being formally used by another person. For example, there is a second trademark registration for the same name MY GIRL, owned by Acushnet Company, for a line of golf putters. When you check the status of the brand, look for alternative spellings and word endings, as well as exact matches.

Due to the widely separated lines of business, there is no brand infringement between these two companies despite having a similar name. In trademark law, “likelihood of confusion” is a principle used to determine if a proposed trademark is too similar to an existing one. Trademarks protect the symbols, phrases, words, logos, or other means by which products or services are identified or distinguished from competitors. It's important to create the strongest and most original brand possible so that customers can easily identify your products and services.

Searching for exactly matching trademarks is fairly easy, but discovering spelling and name variations can be much more difficult. The “date of first use anywhere” refers to the first time this particular brand was used in a way relevant to your business. The Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) trademark registration will identify similar and confusing brands, allowing you to choose a different brand before spending hundreds of dollars on non-refundable trademark application fees or thousands of dollars creating a brand for your company. You can also choose to use your first name as part of the identity of your brand.

One of the main reasons requests are denied is the “risk of confusion” with an existing trademark. A trademark infringement claim can involve a lawsuit that will cost tens of thousands of dollars and will take months to resolve. Starting that process so that the application is ultimately rejected due to similar brands would be a big waste of time, not to mention the costs that changing the name of your company or product can cause.

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