Rebranding your company or your products is a big decision. You want to put your best foot forward to your customers and provide them with the high-quality product they expect from you. At the same time, you want to ensure that you protect yourself and your brand. Make sure you keep these potential legal challenges in mind when rebranding.
1. Legally Changing Your Business Name.
To legally change the name of your business, you will need to either amend your current organizational documents, as filed with the state or create a new business entity for your rebranded organization.
If you do decide to create a new business entity, you will need to transfer assets and contracts from the old business entity to the new one. This can be structured in many different ways. Consult with a corporate attorney and an accountant to get a better idea of any potential tax consequences associated with that transfer, since it could have an unforeseen impact on your business.
2. Maintain Your Trademark Portfolio.
Both the old name of your business and the new one are important to your brand. If you did not previously acquire a trademark for your brand, keep in mind that another company could and potentially take some portion of your market, especially customers who are not aware of the change. By registering the old name (assuming you continue to use it in some capacity), you can protect the goodwill you’ve built with your customers and prevent them from ending up with a competitor. On the same note, make sure you maintain your portfolio and continue to renew the marks that you use.
You should also apply to register your new brand as soon as possible. The U.S. is a use-based trademark system, unlike systems that are “first to file.” You can file an “Intent-to-Use” application (also known as a 1(b) application)) for marks that you are not currently using. After exhausting every extension (and paying the applicable filing fee), you have up to three years to start using the applied-for mark.
3. Do Your Due Diligence.
Imagine pouring thousands of dollars into a rebranding only to find out that someone is already using the new name. Acquiring a trademark for your new brand in advance also means you won’t have to worry about a surprise cease and desist letter arriving just as you’ve finally built your new brand’s reputation and improve consumer awareness.
Always do your research before launching a new brand or product line. You want your brand to be unique; not only to cover legal requirements but so that your brand can stand out from the crowd. A little research as you’re planning your rebranding strategy can help prevent you from ending up with the need to rebrand and rename your business yet again, or worse, a lawsuit.
4. Consider An Alternative Name or d/b/a.
In some cases, you may not want to go through the legal process of changing your business’s legal name, but want to expand or change the services you offer. Imagine, for example, that you started out as a small local bakery. After a few catering jobs where you provided custom cakes, you decided to start expanding and offering a wider selection of custom “designer” cakes–but the bakery’s current name simply failed to reflect that.
In some cases, you can use an assumed business name to accomplish those new goals. You might register the new brand name as a d/b/a or a fictitious name. For example, if your bakery was Cici’s Bakery LLC, but you ended up choosing Cici’s D-Ziner Cakes for the new brand, Cici’s Bakery LLC might do business as Cici’s D-Ziner Cakes when it comes to your catering jobs.
Most states require you to register your d/b/a or alternative name. New Jersey has a fairly streamlined and cost-effective process to file an alternative name with the state. New York on the other hand can get fairly expensive if you’re a corporation and wish to use the d/b/a throughout the entire state.
Rebranding your business is a big step, both professionally and legally. Make sure that you keep your legal requirements in order by working closely with an experienced attorney. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help with the process of rebranding your business.