Tech and Trends:- Your business name defines your company, and it can make or break you when it comes to marketing and branding. Yet, many businesses don’t spend a lot of time creating a business name. The name itself represents and entirely new entity, an identity, that must be different from other business entities. In that respect, your business name poses a legal challenge.
If it’s too similar to some other name, you may be sued for trademark infringement. If it’s too generic, you have no legal protections if someone decides to use your name or branded products for their own purposes.
Here’s how to avoid trouble and create a name that spells success.
The Creative Process
Creating a unique business name is hard. You have two choices: hire someone to help you or go it alone. If you’re going it alone, you should be prepared for many sleepless nights. If you’re a creative person, this is going to take some time to flesh out.
Your name should sound appropriate for your business, but keep in mind that generic names aren’t trademarkable. So, for example, if you’re in the ice cream business, “Joe’s Ice Cream” or “The Ice Cream Shoppe,” may not be something you can trademark. Or, if it is, it may not receive the strongest protection from the trademark office.
On the other hand, “Icecreamory” is more arbitrary. Fanciful names, names which are completely made up, have the strongest trademark protections. So, for example, “Opalex” would work for an ice cream shop because it’s completely fanciful. It creates a strong brand because it’s unlikely anyone else would have this name for an ice cream shop.
Research Existing Names
Before you can start using a name, you should check the USPTO database to make sure it’s not already in existence. But, doing your own search is usually not enough. It pays to hire a trademark attorney to check both the USPTO, common law publications, and local and state registries for similar names or exact matches.
Most businesses don’t do this, and they’re putting themselves at risk for being sued by someone who owns a trademark on a particular name. Don’t be one of those companies.
And, don’t expect vendors to act as a quasi authority when it comes to branding, either. This ice cream packaging company, for example, is one of the leading companies in custom packaging, but having it print custom labels for you doesn’t mean that you own the name.
Only the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can do that for you.
Check Domain Availability
Domain names are cheap, and this is one of the first things you should do when you think you’ve got a good name that’s free and clear. Buy up a domain that matches your business name.
Once you’ve got your name chosen, brand everything in site. To secure a name, you must use it. So, put the little “TM” mark next to your name, and make sure it’s used on at least one public document that’s used in connection with your product or service.
Joshua Alvarado is an experienced advertising manager for small businesses. Also an avid blogger, he enjoys offering his insights by posting online. His articles can be found on many small business and marketing blogs.