Get A Federal Business Name

Federal Reserve

Back in 1913 the Federal Reserve System was introduced thanks to the Federal Reserve Act. Its duties today, according to official Federal Reserve documentation, are to conduct the nation's monetary policy, supervise and regulate banking institutions, maintain the stability of the financial system and provide financial services to depository institutions, the U.S. government, and foreign official institutions.

But the Federal Reserve is not part of the Government. The Federal Reserve System's structure is composed of the presidentially appointed Board of Governors (or Federal Reserve Board), the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks located in major cities throughout the nation, numerous privately owned U.S. member banks and various advisory councils. The FOMC is the committee responsible for setting monetary policy and consists of all seven members of the Board of Governors and the twelve regional bank presidents, though only five bank presidents vote at any given time. The Federal Reserve System has both private and public components, and was designed to serve the interests of both the general public and private bankers.

Federal Express (FedEx)

Originally called FDX Corp., FedEx Corp. was formed in January 1998 with the acquisition of Caliber System Inc. Through this and future purchases, FedEx sought to build on the strength of its famous express delivery service and create a more diversified company that included a portfolio of different but related businesses. Caliber subsidiaries included RPS, a small-package ground service; Roberts Express, an expedited, exclusive-use shipping provider; Viking Freight, a regional, less-than-truckload (LTL) freight carrier serving the Western U.S.; Caribbean Transportation Services, a provider of airfreight forwarding between the U.S., Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean Islands; and Caliber Logistics and Caliber Technology, providers of integrated logistics and technology solutions. These companies, along with worldwide express shipping provider Federal Express, composed the original FDX Corp. 

Over the next two years FDX Corp. oversaw the assimilation of these companies and introduced them to many trademark service and technology enhancements.

In January 2000, FedEx unleashed the power of its global brand. In a move to further integrate the company's portfolio of services, FDX Corp. was renamed FedEx Corporation. In addition, Federal Express became FedEx Express, RPS became FedEx Ground, Roberts Express became FedEx Custom Critical, and Caliber Logistics and Caliber Technology were combined to make up FedEx Global Logistics. To centralize the sales, marketing, customer service and information technology support for FedEx Express and FedEx Ground, a new subsidiary named FedEx Corporate Services (FedEx Services) was formed and began operations in June 2000.

Federal Express was so-named due to the patriotic meaning associated with the word "Federal," which suggested an interest in nationwide economic activity. At that time, Smith hoped to obtain a contract with the Federal Reserve Bank and, although the proposal was denied, he believed the name was a particularly good one for attracting public attention and maintaining name recognition.

Two companies using the moniker "Federal" yet not belonging to the U.S. government. So is the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) a private company? Of course not.


The FBI originated from a force of special agents created in 1908 by Attorney General Charles Bonaparte during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. The two men first met when they both spoke at a meeting of the Baltimore Civil Service Reform Association. Roosevelt, then Civil Service commissioner, boasted of his reforms in federal law enforcement. It was 1892, a time when law enforcement was often political rather than professional. Roosevelt spoke with pride of his insistence that Border Patrol applicants pass marksmanship tests, with the most accurate getting the jobs. Following Roosevelt on the program, Bonaparte countered, tongue in cheek, that target shooting was not the way to get the best men. "Roosevelt should have had the men shoot at each other and given the jobs to the survivors."

So, how does the Federal Reserve and Federal Express get away with using a company name that obviously should be restricted to government usage only? Well, maybe it should be but it isn't.

A quick search of trademarks on the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) website reveals 2,214 records using the term "Federal". On the first page of results is Federal Coffee. Federal Coffee supposedly sell the nation's strongest coffee; and if you want to ask them you can find them on Twitter under the username @FederalCoffee surprisingly enough. Are they affiliated with the U.S. government in any way? No. The Federal Coffee trademark is owned by Federal Coffee Incorporated. There is also one called You Don't Know Me Federal Witness Program; which turns out to be owned by Cotton City Incorporated and is merely the design of a T-shirt which they trademarked. Incidentally Cotton City Inc. is owned by Ace Incorporated.

It would thus appear that anyone can use the word 'Federal' in their business name. But is it that easy? Yes and no.

The dictionary defines the word 'federal' as:

1. Of, relating to, or being a form of government in which a union of states recognizes the sovereignty of a central authority while retaining certain residual powers of government.
2. Of or constituting a form of government in which sovereign power is divided between a central authority and a number of constituent political units.
3. Of or relating to the central government of a federation as distinct from the governments of its member units.
4. Favorable to or advocating federation: The senator's federal leanings were well known.
5. Relating to or formed by a treaty or compact between constituent political units.
6. Federal
a. Of, relating to, or supporting Federalism or the Federalist Party.
b. Of, relating to, or loyal to the Union cause during the American Civil War.
7. often Federal Of, relating to, or being the central government of the United States.
8. Federal Relating to or characteristic of a style of architecture, furniture, and decoration produced in the United States especially in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and characterized by adaptations of classical forms combined with typically American motifs.

1. Federal
a. A supporter of the Union during the American Civil War, especially a Union soldier.
b. A Federalist.
2. often Federal A federal agent or official.

But if you head down the page 'Federal' is also defined as: 

1. federal - national; especially in reference to the government of the United States as distinct from that of its member units; "the Federal Bureau of Investigation"; "federal courts"; "the federal highway program"; "federal property.

So in layman terms Federal = National. So any company in the U.S., that is a national company, could in theory use the term Federal. And it is being allowed by the U.S. Patent & Trademark office unless the government own Federal Coffee and just don't want to admit it. So as long as you are based in the U.S., and your product is national, you can use the term 'Federal' in your business name without worrying the FBI are going to come banging on your door and arrest you.

Maybe in a few years we will see other people take up the term 'Federal' in their business names. Who knows this time next month there may be a Federal Charles Manson Fan Club or a Federal Joke Shop doing business.

Note: This is in no way any form of legal advice. If you intend to attempt to use the term 'Federal' or 'Fed' in a business name it would be advisable to seek legal advice, and representation, before doing so. Also in no way is Federal Express, Federal Reserve, Federal Coffee related to each other in business; or any other way.


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