The name that a business uses to identify itself is generally referred to as a “trade name.” This is
the name that the business uses on its invoices, letterhead and for advertising and sales purposes
but is different from the name in its articles of incorporation or other officially filed documents or its official name.
A trade name is not the same as a trademark or entitled to protection under trademark laws
unless it actually is used to identify a product or service.
Most states provide for the protection of trade names by filing registration documents with county clerks or other offices within the state. Although a company name or a trade name may sometimes
also be a trademark, the trade name is not itself a form of intellectual property.
It is a common misconception that incorporation of a business or filing of an LLC, partnership or DBA (doing business as) will provide trademark rights for the business name. These business filings with your state do not provide any trademark rights and are not a substitute for federal trademark registration.
A trade name that is not used on a product or service may be given some protection under some
state laws (through corporate, LLC, or fictitious business name registration) or be protected against confusing use by a competing businesses under federal and state unfair competition laws.