Naming Your Business

Your brand starts with your name, so don't screw it up!

There are numerous business and legal considerations to take into account when choosing a name for your business. 

Avoid unforeseen consequences and costly pitfalls later by choosing a name that is searchable, available, expandable, and protectable.

Searchable

Ideally, word will get out about your business, and people will be searching for it. When they do, you want to make sure that you can rank for it. If you're naming your company something that is commonly used, you may be competing for page ranks and therefore losing site traffic. Conversely, if you are able to name your business something that people are already searching for, you might be able to shortcut the SEO process and get your name ranking from the start.

Availability

One of the worst things that can happen to a small business is they receive a cease and desist letter just as they are starting to grow and all of a sudden are forced to rebrand. You might be able to fight the claims of others to the use of your mark, but this can be expensive and will zap your money and resources which can be used more productively. For this reason, it's important for any startup to conduct a thorough business name search to make sure their proposed name is available and to avoid any issues down the road. If possible, this process is best left to trademark attorneys who are trained and experienced in conducting conflict searches. 

For tips on how to see if your proposed name is available, click here.

One of the first steps that many startups take when searching for a name is to check to see if the domain name is available. While this is obviously an important step, just because a domain name is available doesn't mean that the name is available in general, or at least available enough to make it a wise choice. 

It's also a good idea to check social media platforms to see if the name is available. While you may be able to alter your name slightly to get by on different platforms, having a consistent brand image will help you to grow your brand and be found across multiple platforms. 

Expandable

Don't limit your business from the start by choosing a name that limits the scope of products or services that you may offer, or the region in which they will be offered. Try to avoid specific designations early on so that you have room to expand down the road.

Protectable

Assuming that you followed tip #2 above, and your name is available, you also should consider whether it is actually protectable. While the general rule is that you want your name to convey what your business does, if it's generic or merely descriptive of your product or service, then it might not be protectable. Let's explore this some more...

In the land of trademarks, where the wizards of the USPTO rule, you need to know how to play by the rules if you want to (eventually) have exclusive use of your trademark. (If you don't know what a trademark is, or need a quick reminder, click here.)

Here are some of the common rejections you might receive from the US Trademark Office:

  • Merely a Trade Name: A trademark is used to indicate the source of the goods or services. If you just start a business and give it a name, such as My Business LLC, you can't protect it unless "My Business" is 

  • Merely Ornamental

  • Scandalous Matter:

  • Deceptive Matter:

  • False Suggestion of a Connection:

  • Flag, Coat of Arms, or other Insignia:

  • Protected by Federal Statute:

  • Living Individual or Deceased U.S. President (without consent)

  • Merely Descriptive

  • Generic

  • Geographic Significance

  • Surname

  • Domain Names

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