Naming a new business can be fun, stressful, challenging or all of the above. In choosing a name that’s memorable and accurately reflects your brand, it’s also important to select a business name with intellectual property protections in mind. That’s because your business name could end up being your greatest asset, or your greatest liability.
Consider this: You chosen a business name are moving full speed ahead with the launch of your new company. You develop your products, build and publish a website, you create marketing pieces, and you eventually start doing business and earning revenue.
…then you receive a cease and desist notice from another company who has a name similar to yours. They claim that you are infringing on their trademarked brand that you need to cease all your operations immediately or they’ll commence an action against you in federal court.
What you need to know is that if there’s merit to their claim, you will have to stop doing business under the name you’ve selected or potentially be subject to the claimed damages. You may also have to destroy all of your marketing materials, your branding, product packaging… really everything and start again from scratch.
The above hypothetical situation happens more frequently than you may think. The good news is that with a little bit of planning from an intellectual property (IP) perspective, you can avoid having to rebrand your business after investing so much time and money into it. Let’s look at a few ways to keep IP basics in mind as you choose a name for your business:
- Conduct searches online to see if anyone else is using your desired name. Start with Google and other search engines (and please look beyond the first page of results!). You should also check social media accounts, sites that you plan to sell or advertise on (for example Ebay, Amazon), conduct a business entity search at least in the state where you live, and finally, search USPTO.gov to see if anyone has filed a trademark application for the name or similar name you desire.
- Stay away from “descriptive” names. The more descriptive the name of your business is of your goods or services, the weaker your brand will be and more likely others will use the same terms in their name. For example, if you have a cake company and you name it Great Tasting Cakes, there’s a significant likelihood that a competitor will use the name of your brand or something similar just because of the descriptive nature of the name. Likewise, you will have a hard time securing a trademark for your name if it’s too descriptive.
- Don’t choose a name that may confuse consumers. If you are opening a hamburger joint, naming your company “Kingz Burger” is going to land you in hot water with you-know-who. Merely adding a few words, rearranging words, or changing the spelling or some letters in a word that is registered with an established brand is enough to trigger an infringement suit. If you have selected a name that is similar to another brand, do yourself a favor and talk to an IP attorney before you launch. The small investment of letting an attorney evaluate the situation from the beginning can potentially save you hundreds (if not hundreds of thousands) of dollars in judgments if you proceed with a business name that infringes on someone’s trademark.
Finally, after you’ve taken these steps and you feel confident that you’ve selected a name that is available for use from an Intellectual Property perspective, don’t wait to register it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. You’ll want to secure your trademark rights as soon as possible so that you can prevent others from using your name down the road.
If you need help with this process, we are here to assist you. Please contact our law firm at (888) 666-0062 to schedule a complimentary consultation with the mention of this article.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.