Trade Name

Trade name is also known as an assumed name or corporate name, it is the name under which a company does business. Whereas a trade name typically identifies the business itself, trademarks identify goods or services. It is possible that a trade name can also serve as a trademark assuming that it meets the legal requirements of a trademark. If that is the situation, the trade name will also have protection under state and federal trademark and dilution laws. It is important to note that a trade name has no exclusive trademark rights unless it is used in business as a trademark.

Additional Sources

1. A name used to identify a commercial product or service, which may or may not be registered as a trademark. Also called brand name.

2. The name by which a commodity, service, or process is known to the trade.

3. The name under which a business firm operates.


A name or mark that is used by a person (as an individual proprietor or a corporation) to identify that person's business or vocation and that may also be used as a trademark or service mark. Dictionary

n. a name of a business or one of its products which, by use of the name and public reputation, identifies the product as that of the business. A trade name belongs to the first business to use it, and the identification and reputation give it value and the right to protect the trade name against its use by others. Example: Sheaffer's is clearly identified as a fountain pen manufactured by the Sheaffer Company, and no one else can produce pens with that name. However, a motorcycle with the name Sheaffer would not be an infringement since the product is different.

Lect Law Library

TRADE NAME/COMMERCIAL NAME - any word or words used by a person to identify such person's business/vocation or occupation. A trade name/commercial name symbolizes the reputation of a person's business/vocation or occupation as a whole. By comparison, a trademark/mark identifies a person's goods or services.

The Free (Legal) Dictionary

Names or designations used by companies to identify themselves and distinguish their businesses from others in the same field.

Trade names are used by profit and non-profit entities, political and religious organizations, industry and agriculture, manufacturers and producers, wholesalers and retailers, sole proprietorships and joint ventures, partnerships and corporations, and a host of other business associations. A trade name may be the actual name of a given business or an assumed name under which a business operates and holds itself out to the public.

Trade name regulation derives from the Common Law of Unfair Competition. The common law distinguishes between Trademarks and trade names. Trademarks consist of symbols, logos, and other devices that are affixed to goods to signify their authenticity to the public. The common law of trade names encompasses a broader class of Intellectual Property interests, including Trade Dress and service marks. Trade dress is used by competitors to distinguish their products by visual appearance, including size, shape, and color, while service marks are used by competitors to distinguish their services from each other. Gradually, the law of trade dress and service marks has evolved into separate causes of action, independent from the law of trade name infringement.

To maintain a Cause of Action for trade name infringement, a plaintiff must establish that it owned the right to operate its business under a certain name and that the defendant violated this right by use of a deceptively similar name. The right to use a particular trade name ordinarily is established by priority of adoption. In states that require registration of trade names, a business may acquire the rights to a trade name by being the first to file for protection with the appropriate governmental office, usually the Secretary of State. In states that do not require registration, a business may acquire the rights to a trade name through public use, which means that the law will afford protection only if it can be demonstrated that a business and its trade name have become inseparable in the public's mind. Under federal law businesses may acquire the rights to a trade name only through regular and continued public use of an individual name. Federal law will not protect trade names that are used sporadically or irregularly.

Once a business has established the right to use a particular trade name, it must then prove that the defendant fraudulently attempted to pass itself off as the plaintiff through use of a deceptively similar name. Not every trade name that resembles an existing one will give rise to liability for infringement. The law will not forbid two unrelated businesses from using the same trade name so long as their coexistence creates no substantial risk of confusion among the public. For instance, two businesses may call themselves "Triple Play" if one business is a video store and the other is a sports bar and grill. By the same token, the law permits businesses in different geographic markets to use identical trade names, unless the good will and reputation of an existing business extend into the market where a new business has opened.


A trade name, also known as a trading name or a business name, is the name which a business trades under for commercial purposes, although its registered, legal name, used for contracts and other formal situations, may be another.

Trade names are also used in retailing to make oddly named articles more appealing to customers, or to make it easier for customers to recognize a product with a technical or difficult to remember name. Trade names are informal, public domain terms, unlike trademarks. Pharmaceuticals have trade names (e.g. "Aspirin") which are often dissimilar to their chemical names ("acetylsalicylic acid").

Trade names may sometimes be registered as trademarks and be regarded as brands. Conversely, trademarks and brand names can slip into the public domain and be used less restrictively as more general trade names.