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‘Brand names’, ‘business names’ and ‘trademarks’ are terms that can be confusing, and often raise several questions. What does each one mean? Do you have to register them? Can they be copied by someone else? Each of these terms is explained below to make them easier to understand.
What is a Brand Name?
When we talk about a ‘brand’, we mean something that sets a company apart from their competitors, or something that is distinct to that company. A brand is what joins a company with its customers, creates loyalty and becomes known and associated with that company. A brand may or may not be the same as a company name, but it is what consumers associate most with your company.
‘AA Insurance’, ‘Spark’, ‘The Warehouse’,‘Milo’, ‘Nescafe’ and ‘Air New Zealand’ are all examples of well-known brand names in NZ. When you hear or think about these brand names, you will instantly know what type of product they refer to, due to their thorough marketing of their products. In the case of ‘Milo’ and ‘Nescafe’, the name of a successful Nestle product has become the brand name in and of itself.
Besides being the name of your product or service a ‘brand’ can also be a logo or a piece of music. Your brand becomes a piece of ‘intellectual property’ which is owned by you. As it’s property, your brand can be sold - by itself or with your business.
What is a Business Name?
A business name is the official legal name you give the company which is registered on the Register of Companies.
Your business name is like the boss at the top of the food chain. You can sell and promote as many brands (or trading names) as you like under your business or company name, but unless your business name is also a brand name, you are unlikely to need to promote that name itself. That’s because you market the products or services of your brand, through your brand name, rather than by using your official business name. For instance, we know Thorndon ‘New World’ by its brand name, not its business name of Foodstuffs North Island Limited.
So What About a Trademark?
A trademark protects you from someone else coming along and selling their product using your brand name or business name. Unless you trademark both names, you run the risk of someone using one or either of them and capitalising on all the hard work and money you have put in to promote them. Depending on which one you use to promote your product, trademarking it is a really smart idea. Less business names are trademarked than brands, but we are more than happy to help you decide which you should trademark.
You can find out more about the benefits of trademarking and how you can get a trademark in our article Should I Trade Mark My Business Name.
Disclaimer: The information on this page is general information only and must not be relied on as legal advice. Legal Beagle is not a law firm or a substitute for a law firm. We are unable to provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defences, options, selection of legal documents or strategies.
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