Among the first and most valuable assets owned by a start-up is its brand name. Your brand name is your reputation. It identifies your products to consumers and differentiates you from others in the marketplace.
Trademarks are the legal instruments that protect your brand. They are also assets that can be sold and licensed to third parties, generating a revenue stream for your business.
When you have selected a name for your start-up (and/or each of the products and services your start-up will offer), it is prudent to engage in the following process:
Note that reserving your brand as a corporate name with a local Secretary of State and/or obtaining a domain name registration for the brand do not grant exclusive rights to use that brand name. Corporate names and domain names are separate legal instruments wholly distinct from trademarks. Only filing a trademark application with the appropriate government agency (e.g., the United States Patent and Trademark Office) confers trademark rights.
Finally, keep in mind that trademark rights are territorial. A trademark registration in one country does not confer exclusive rights to use the mark anyplace else. Therefore, it is advisable to search and file in every jurisdiction of interest to the business.