It regularly happens that the terms trade name and brand name are used interchangeably. It can be an expensive mistake. A trade name is not (yet) a brand name. Its protection is also regulated differently.
In this article, we explain to you why you must know the difference and what it all means.
Trade name and brand name: often the same name in practice
A trade name is the name you use to refer to your company. In other words, it is the name under which you present yourself with your company to the world. A brand name is the name you use to distinguish your products and/or services from those of your competitors. Often, you also use your trade name as a brand, namely when you advertise your products or services.
Regional protection for your trade name
By actively using your trade name, you automatically gain the right to use that name: the trade name right. You use your name then on your website, business cards or invoices, for example.
First come, first served...
The first user of a trade name has protection for that name. If another company later uses (almost) the same trade name, you can take action if that later name causes confusion with your name in the relevant public. However, be warned: a trade name only provides protection in the region where your company is active.
Why must you then actually register your company when you start? And even if you automatically gain the trade name right by actively using the name? Simply put: because it’s the law. All companies in the Netherlands must be registered in the Chamber of Commerce Trade Register. In Belgium, registration takes place through accredited business counters. Thereafter the company is recorded in the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises.
Registration in the trade register does not give monopoly over the name
For instance, you are a baker and you have registered your company in the trade register under the name ‘Williams B.V.' and the trade name ‘Eve’. The name you actively use for the bakery, your trade name, is ‘Eve’. The baker around the corner cannot run off now and start trading with your trade name. This could cause confusion with the public between your bakery and that of your competitor. However, a baker in another region can still use the name ‘Eve’. So you do not have monopoly over the use of the name of your company.
How do you protect your name?
Do you want to be the only baker with the name ‘Eve’? And prevent your competitors from piggy-backing on your success? Or from copying the name of your product or services? If so, you can do that using trademark law.
Register your trademark in four steps
Registration protects the value of your brand. Be aware: There is a lot to consider when applying for trademark registration. And there are costs involved. Use these four steps to check what opportunities and possibilities are open to you.
Start the four steps
With trademark registration you have monopoly
By registering your trade name as an official trademark, you do gain the monopoly over the name. You are then the only person who can use your brand name for the products and services under which you have registered the name.
You can register your trademark yourself with the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP). Your registration is immediately valid then for all three Benelux countries. Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The fee for basic registration of your trademark is 244 Euro. Your registration is then valid for ten years and is also renewable.
Would you rather outsource registering your trademark? Find an IP professional through the Benelux Association for Trademark and Design Law