Happy New Year Passionistas!! Ready to take 2016 by storm? Last year, I started a tradition for myself by declaring my word for the year. In 2015, it was fearless, and I am proud to say that I pushed myself to live up to that word. I started my business, launched a website, started a blog and began writing for other blogs, wrote proposals for clients, got hired by clients, and made it to another year. For 2016, I’ve decided that my word is harvest. I want to harvest or gather more grace, fun, abundance, and community into my life. I think 2016 is going to be a good one.
Speaking of words, are you struggling with a name for your brand new business or product this year? Entrepreneurs spend a lot of time and effort coming up with the perfect name for their business (as they should). Unfortunately, all too often people fail to consider the legal and business implications of their decision. You want your name to be unique and perhaps, clever, but you don’t want a name that has no impact or infringes on the rights of someone else. To avoid these problems, here are my top 5 tips for choosing a name for your business.
Be Creative Not Confusing
I use a lot of natural products in my natural hair, and my friend likes to call these products “juices and berries.” I kinda love that title. So when I briefly considered going into the hair products business, I thought it was a great business name. That is until I started talking with other friends, and they thought I was starting a juice bar or organic fruit store. The point here is that everyone is not in on your inside joke. So while it is important to be creative, you want a name that is easy to understand and relates to your product or service in a meaningful way.
Check Your Pronunciation and Spelling
People love to add creative spelling and pronunciation when they are naming their children. I refer you to Emily, Emilie, and if you are French, Amelié. However, when it comes to naming your business, avoid this, please. Your business name will likely be the name of your website too, and if people can’t spell or tell others about it because they don’t know how to pronounce it, you are losing business.
Do a Trademark Search
Before investing tons of time and money into marketing a business name, do a trademark search to make sure that the name is available for use. A trademark search is a process by which you review certain trademark databases and other tools to determine whether a potential product or business name is too similar to other names that may be out there. On of the main tools for this is United States Patent and Trademark search engine: http://tess2.uspto.gov, but you also need to search your state’s corporate filings office and commercial search engines like Google and Bing. There are private search services and lawyers that can perform a trademark search for you, but whatever you do, don’t skip this step. It will save you lots of money in the long run.
A Business Name that is Play On A Popular Brand is Not A Good Idea
We all love famous brands and marks, but if you want to find yourself on the wrong side of a cease-and-desist letter or trademark lawsuit, name your business after one. Famous marks are marks that enjoy a high degree of customer recognition, and therefore, they are afforded a broader scope of trademark protection. These brands include names Nike, Coca-Cola, Kodak, McDonalds, etc. Because of their fame, you don’t even have to be in the same industry to be hauled into court under a claim called dilution in trademark law. The bottom line here is to stay away from names that are similar to famous marks because calling your business Froogle (like Google but different) is a bad idea and likely illegal.
Don’t Use Designators Unless You’ve Actually Earn Them
People love adding Inc., LLC or ® behind their business name or product because they think it adds a level of sophistication to their offerings. Designators like LLC, Inc., Corp., etc., indicate that a separate legal business entity has been formed, and the ® indicates that your mark has been registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. If you have not registered a trademark or formed a business entity, using those designators is improper and opens you up to a lawsuit. So if you want to use these designators in your business name, make sure you take the steps necessary to register your mark or form your business entity first.
What are some business names that you love or love to hate? Let me know in the comments below.
Have any pressing naming concerns? You can ask me for help in the comments below, too.