Selecting the Right Name For Your Business
Gene Smith had a great idea. He had thought of the perfect service: he had a bus that he could convert into a world-class kitchen. He would travel to large business gatherings and do “on the spot” catering, where he could take orders and make alterations based on allergies or other dietary issues.
He started the process of getting his business up and running. He had the side of the bus painted with his logo and he started trying to attract funders. He even had the perfect name: Meals on Wheels. It rhymed, it was short and easy to remember, it was perfect.
When Gene was pitching his idea to Ted, an angel investor he knew from business school, he discovered a problem. Ted told him that he would have trouble incorporating under that name. “Why?” Gene asked.
Gene had somehow never heard of the huge national non-profit Meals on Wheels. He had invested so much in that name. The catchiness of it was what was going to propel his business forward.
Gene had a dilemma. He had to change the name of his business while still trying to keep the brand recognition he had developed.
In the end, Gene decided he had to change the name. He didn’t have any ideas for a similar name, but he had thought of a new one. A name with some pedigree to it. A name that evoked fancy feasts and delicious opportunities: Edible Arrangements.
Clearly, if Gene had consulted with an attorney before committing to his business names, he would have recognized his uncanny ability to choose great names that are already taken by huge national corporations and saved himself a great deal of money and headache.
How Does a Knowledgeable Attorney Protect Your Name?
It makes sense that businesses are concerned with choosing the right name. The name is the first part of a business that people see. It conveys a message. It is also the mechanism by which the public and potential investors recognize and remember your services and history.
But if a name isn’t carefully chosen, all the work a business put into branding and promoting could be lost. If somebody brings up a lawsuit against your name and you are forced to change it, you lose a lot your reputation and recognition and may have to start from the bottom once again.
Below are 6 steps you and a knowledgeable startup attorney should take to pick a good name for your business and protect it.
- Check the availability at the state level: First, check the name with the Secretary of State for the states your business will be operating in. If the name is available with the Secretary of State, reserve it pending an in-depth search.
- Check the availability of one or more compatible and acceptable URL/Web addresses: If the cost is nominal or otherwise acceptable, purchase the URLs/Web addresses for at least one year (with a right to renew). If the cost is significant, defer purchase until your business entity is organized under its chosen name.
- Check trademark databases: At the same time as the state-level search, perform searches of trademark databases using online services and other research materials to conduct a wider search of names that have already been taken.
- Utilize outside research companies: After doing an in-house search, obtain an in-depth trademark search from an outside research company. They conduct a thorough search through a large number of sources of unofficial information about company and product names in the relevant fields to the business.
- Assess the risk: Normally, a business owner and their attorney will sit down to go over the reports and assess the levels of risk associated with the name.
- Organize your business entity under its chosen name & register the name.Once the business is comfortable with the level of risk associated with its chosen name (i) complete the organization or your business entity under its chosen name; (ii) take steps to legally protect that name and (iii) take any necessary steps to complete acquisition of one or more compatible and acceptable URLs/Web addresses. If the name will be used on products or in advertising campaigns, it is often a good idea to file an application for federal registration.
It is important to choose a name with the least risk of being in conflict with any name owned by anyone else. The last thing a startup needs is a lawsuit targeting a name for which it will have spent considerable time and effort for branding.
Are you ready to select and trademark the best name for your business? Company Counsel LLC attorneys will start you off on the right path. Contact us today to find out how we can help you navigate the trademark process.