NS Grind Entrepreneur: Business Administration
Striving To Better Yourself, Your Community and Your World
- Trademarks
- Patents
- Business Structures: Sole Proprietor, LLC & Corporations
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A trademark is a symbol, word, or expression that’s legally registered or established to
represent a company, service or product.  You can apply for a trademark through your
state or federal government.  Here’s some things to consider:

(1) Using a TM (trademark) or SM (servicemark) is traditionally called a common law
trademark.  They are not officially registered by a state or federal government
entity, so there is less legal protection against infringement since there is a greater
burden of proof in showing that you are the legal owner of the trademark.  
[Infringement: Someone else using your trademark for their profit and/or identification
without your permission]

(2) Registered trademarks through your state only protect you from infringement
within your state. Federal trademarks offer protection from anyone in any U.S. state
or territory. However, if your business services or products are exclusive to your
region, you may decide that state trademark registration is sufficient. State trademark
application fees are $20-$100, which is much less than federal trademarks fees that
cost more than $1,000.   

(3)  Applying for a trademark doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be given approval for one.  

You can apply for a trademark through a private lawyer; through a legal services
company (such as LegalZoom); or you can apply for it yourself.  The state
agency/department that handles trademarks varies with each state. The federal
agency is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Click here or below for the link to your state's trademark authority
Patents are a type of legal protection that prevents others from “making, using, selling,
offering for sale, or importing an invention for a limited time.” Unlike some trademarks
that can be registered regionally through the state government, patents are only issued
by the federal government through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

To apply for a patent, you can hire a private attorney; go through a legal services
company (such as LegalZoom or Invent Help); or file the application yourself.
The structure of your business will determine a wide range things, from how you
manage the business to how you file taxes. Here's an overview of different business
structures.Note: Sole Proprietorships are also legally known as DBAs
(Doing Business As)
Each state has different requirements about registering your business with their local
government.  Contact the Secretary of State office in your state for specific information.
If you decide to make your business structure an LLC or Corporation, there are
additional documents that need to be filed in your state to make it a legal corporate
entity. This can be done through a private lawyer; through a legal services company
(such as Legal Zoom); or you may file the documents yourself. However, since
there are sometimes complexities in corporate laws that could seriously impact your
business, it's recommended that you at least get some form of legal counsel/advice
before you file the documents yourself.

Your Secretary of State's office (see above for the link and phone number) probably
will not offer official legal advice; however they may have a listing of local legal
counselors. You can also contact your Small Business Administration District/Local
Office, where various kinds of business counsel is provided at no cost.