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).

Legal Articles Additional Disclaimer is not a law firm and does not offer legal advice. Content posted on is the sole responsibility of the person from whom such content originated and is not reviewed or commented on by The application of law to any set of facts is a highly specialized skill, practiced by lawyers and often dependent on jurisdiction. Content on the site of a legal nature may or may not be accurate for a particular state or jurisdiction and may largely depend on specific circumstances surrounding individual cases, which may or may not be consistent with your circumstances or may no longer be up-to-date to the extent that laws have changed since posting. Legal articles therefore are for review as general research and for use in helping to gauge a lawyer's expertise on a matter. If you are seeking specific legal advice, recommends that you contact a lawyer to review your specific issues. See's full Terms of Use for more information.