Brand names are eligible for copyright along with any other text or graphics associated with a project. A brand name can also be covered by trademark law. A trademark is defined as a word, symbol or phrase used to identify a particular product or manufacturer. While a brand name is copyrightable the laws associated with trademarks offer better protection for a brand name.
Acquire the trademark by using the brand name in commerce first. The rule of thumb is the first to use the name will have the rights to use it. At the same time the brand name can be registered with the U.S. Copyright office through the forms they supply.
Register the name or mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The mark or name must be distinctive and identifiable. The name can be associated with the product, such as Holiday Inn being a motel or inn, or unrelated such as Apple being a computer company. The rules only require that the name be original, not associated with the product or business.
Maintain the trademark registration by use. Abandonment of the trademark occurs when use is stopped with no intent to resume its use. The law considers three consecutive years where the brand name is not used to be abandonment. A business that franchises the use of its brand name without compensation also is considered abandonment of the trademark.
Trademark infringement is a civil matter and the holder of a trademark can sue anyone that uses the brand name improperly. This includes brand names and trademarks that are similar enough to the original brand name to cause confusion. Owners of trademarks are advised to monitor any similar brand names.