Trade Name, Trademark, Trade Dress - What's the Difference?

by Angela Robinson on Jul. 28, 2017

Intellectual Property 

Summary: This reference provides a short discussion of three terms in intellectual property that are often confused.


A trade name is a word, phrase, symbol and/or design that identifies a company by other than its business name. Sometimes referred to as an "assumed name" or "doing business as..." (d/b/a...) name, a trade name is registered at the
state level, usually subject to renewal every 10 years.

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol and/or design that identifies the goods & products of a company. A service
mark is the same as a trademark, except it identifies the source of a service rather than a product. Although not required, state or Federal trademark registration has certain benefits. Assistance from an Attorney is helpful to ensure that a business secures the proper coverage for its marks.  

Finally, trade dress is a trademark protecting the overall commercial appearance of a product or business rather than a specific logo (e.g., the readily identifiable red décor of a Staples® store).

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