How to Legally Copyright a Name

By Pam Gaulin

It's possible that you want to legally protect a name, whether it's your personal name or a business name. U.S. copyright law does not cover the protection of names. However, you can legally protect your name with a trademark, if it is eligible.

Understand the different types of Intellectual property, or IP. A copyright protects authorship and is administered by the Library of Congress. The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office handles the protection of inventions with patents. The USPTO has a special office devoted to trademarks. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers handles website addresses (see Resources).

Search the trademark office's database to look for already trademarked names that may be the same as or similar to yours using the Trademark Electronic Search System (see Resources). It's key to do this search before applying or spending any money. There is no charge for the search.

Find a new name to trademark if the one you want is not available. The search may also be used to help you hone or condense the original name you had wanted to protect. If the exact name is not available, look up variations on the name using the database. Or come up with a new name for the business using a name generator. Try Nameboy.com or the Web 2.0 Name Generator (see Resources).

File an online application with the Trademark Electronic Application System. The system will check your application. Use a valid email address, as that is where the serial number will be sent. Keep your serial number in a safe place, both on your computer and on paper. Pay $325 for the application with a credit card or debit card, at the end of the online application. This ampount rises to $375 when filed by paper.

Wait for finalization or rejection of the trademark request by the trademark office. The office says a response should come within six months of the application date. It may take a couple of years for the process to be complete, depending on the name and extenuating legal issues.

About the Author

Pam Gaulin is a content specialist and copy writer whose clients have included Reebok, Zappos.com, Walmart, Butterfinger, Ball Park Franks, Modern Mom, McCormikc, Equifax, Transuion, Walmart, and many other notable brands. Her previous positions include editor of "Web Site Source Book," project leader for a K-12 database, business writer for a newsletter publisher and Happenings editor for "The Valley Advocate." Gaulin holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Massachusetts.