What’s In A Name? How To Pick & Protect The Right Business Name

Today Nellie Akalp, founder of CorpNet is here with another insightful guest post.

Is there anything more important to your business than its name?

It’s the cornerstone of your company identity. Imagine Target’s branding if the retailer still used its original name, Dayton Dry Goods Company.

Selecting the right name for your company is critical and should be followed by taking the right legal steps.

The process entails three stages: brainstorming, investigation, and registration:

Step 1: The brainstorm

Consider what’s important to your business.

What’s the first thing you want a customer to think about your company? A descriptive name helps customers know what you’re all about. For example, Speedy Cleaning vs. just Speedy.

But don’t box yourself in with too detailed a description; you never know if you’ll end up expanding down the road.

Once you’ve brainstormed a dozen or so names, poll your family and friends on their opinion. Just don’t get too attached to any one name until you know it’s available. 

Step 2: Investigation

Trust me, you don’t want to end up on the wrong side of a trademark dispute.

So before you order your business cards and letterhead, make sure you’re legally permitted to use that name:

  • Search corporate names in the secretary of state’s database in the state where you’re planning on setting up your business by using a trademark search engine. The USPTO offers one here.
  • Conduct a Free Trademark Search to see if your name is available to use at the federal level.
  • You can infringe on someone else’s mark even if they’ve never formally registered it with the USPTO. For this reason, you’ll also need to do a comprehensive nationwide trademark search into state and local databases.

Step 3: Registration

After you’ve settled on a name, you need to register it with the proper authorities.

This should be done as soon as possible to prevent someone else from registering it. In addition, you’ll enjoy significantly stronger protection by registering your trademark  with the USPTO. This will make it much easier for you to recover your trademark should someone else try to use it.

Remember, your name represents your brand and business. Follow these three steps to make sure the name is yours to use legally for decades to come.

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Nellie Akalp

CEO of Corpnet.com at Corpnet
Nellie Akalp is a serial entrepreneur and small business expert. She currently serves as the CEO ofCORPNET.COM, an online legal document filing service, where she helps entrepreneurs START A BUSINESS, INCORPORATE, FORM AN LLC, and offers free BUSINESS COMPLIANCE TOOLS.
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9 Comments

  1. Laurie Mullin

    I have chosen my product name and had a trademark search done. Now the next step is the trademark application. I’m wondering if anyone has done this themselves. I’ve looked at the application and it seems pretty straight forward. The price quotes I’ve received from agents and lawyers are crazy and I’m looking to save wherever I can. However I don’t want to get in over my head either. Any advice?

    Reply
  2. Lillian

    I also am brainstorming for names for my handbag/accessory line. I want to use my name Lillian Vernell, but was thinking using the initials LV is too similar to the original LV (Louis Vuitton) could this pose a problem in the future?

    Reply
    • Heather Allard

      Hey Lillian – I might check with a trademark attorney about your company name. I think you may run into a couple of similarities – LV (Louis Vuitton) and Lillian Vernon (the catalog company). Best to check with a professional. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Cheri

    I’m hoping to start a blog & Etsy shop this Summer… I’ve been brainstorming names for my mixed media art. The name I’m leaning towards is tea stained daisy… Is this too vague? I enjoy all kinds of different crafts so I dont want to be too specific in my name. Would love thoughts/suggestions anyone might have. Thanks so much!

    Reply
  4. Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama

    Also important to monitor your name once picked and registered! Facebook makes it easy to report trademark infringement, but you need to also set up google alerts and other monitoring services to discover companies/people using your name and appropriately respond to them.

    Jennifer Taggart
    http://www.thesmartmama.com
    (and in my real life, an attorney)

    Reply
  5. Heather Allard

    I named my baby products company “2 Virtues” after my daughters Hope & Grace. I thought the name was so cute and clever…but when I was repeatedly asked if I sold religious items, I realized I was wrong. 😉

    I began calling my products “Swaddleaze by 2 Virtues” and “Blankeaze by 2 Virtues” so the product name came first and the ill-chosen company name came second. LOL.

    Thanks for a great article, Nellie!
    Heather

    Reply
    • Nellie Akalp

      Love it!!! Yes, not everyone takes a name the same way! 😉 Thank you for the opportunity to share this article Heather! -Nellie

      Reply
  6. India

    Love this info! It took me some time to come up with Saltwater Style – but it fits! My store is for stylish ladies who love to fish and love the ocean!
    India 🙂

    Reply
    • Heather Allard

      Yes, I’d agree, India…Saltwater Style fits your site perfectly. 😉

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Heather

      Reply

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