Naming Your Creative Business

Naming Your Creative Business
by Sue Basko, esq.

Today, many creative businesses are located on the internet. This means they have a national or worldwide reach.  Your business ideally should have a name that no other business is yet using, so that others cannot stop you from using your name and so you can protect your name. If you start a company using a name that someone already has taken, you might get cease and desist letters, be forced into trademark battles over the name or into WIPO battles over a domain name.

A business name should be easy to spell, catchy, sound like what it is, not have any bad connotations, and most of all, be yours only.

Easy to Spell: The name must have an easy and obvious spelling, so people can find it online and in other listings.  Alternate spellings of common words can mean you miss business.  Examples: Spellings such as Xterior Paint or Kopy Shop will make it hard to look up. 

 Catchy:  If it has more than 5 syllables, it is not catchy.

Sound like what it is:  It should sound like what it is unless knowing what the name means is part of what makes the customers part of an in group.  

Not have any bad Connotations:  Have someone else ask random people what the name reminds them of.  Have someone else do this because often, we want so badly for our idea to be good, that we may prevent others from giving honest feedback.  If the name reminds people of death, disease, crime, or notorious bad incidents, it is best to find a different name. 

BE YOURS ONLY:  Many times, people come up with a catchy name, but it is a name already in use.  Do this checking first:

1) Google it. 
2) Look at company names on LinkedIn.
3) Check if someone is already using that URL with any domain extension.
4) Check domain registries.
5) Do a trademark search. (I do these for clients.  A search should be done on the national registry and perhaps on a state registry.)
6) Search on Twitter.
7) Search on facebook.

IF THE NAME LOOKS CLEAR for you to use, immediately:

1) Make a Twitter account using the name.
2) Add the name to your LinkedIn profile.
3) Make a Facebook page for it.
4) Make a gmail account using it.
5) Make a few free websites and blogs using it.  These do  not need to be completed, you just need to secure use of the name.
6) Buy the domain name with several extensions.
7) Talk to a lawyer about registering trademark on the name.  It is not possible to register trademark on all names.  However, if you are starting a website-based business, you are best off finding out in advance whether the name can be registered as a trademark, because this is of great importance.  

I strongly recommend that you do not use a do-it-yourself trademark service or kit.  Trademark law is very complicated and most people bollix it up.  Many people fill out the application and think the process is done, when in fact, it has only just begun.   Messing up the registration can end out costing a lot of money and time and you can end out losing the name, too.   

Trademark registration is a process that takes about a year to 18 months to complete,  unless the registration is challenged by a person who holds registration on the same or a similar trademark.  If there is a challenge, it can take much longer and often ends out with one party paying the other to stop using the name.  The trademark registration filing fee is about $300 and the lawyer charges for their work.  Every lawyer is different and every registration will present different challenges.   You can expect to pay about $1200 to $10,000 in lawyer fees, depending on the situation.