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  • Samantha Bradshaw

8 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Business Name

Updated: Feb 1

How much time did you spend on the name of your business?

Virginia small business owner sitting on the floor in jeans and white tshirt working on laptop

I could say choosing your business, service, or product name is one of the most important things in your business like every other blog post out there.


Surprise....


it’s not.

Serving your people is.


But it is pretty darn important!

It sets the tone and image for your company. It can even affect how customers think about your product or service. There are so many things to take into account when naming a company, but what if there was an easy step by step process to come up with a name that not only suits your new business and doesn't get you in legal trouble with someone else (avoid a lawsuit or cease and desist letter? but could actually be a way for you to make money in the future?


If that sounds good, keep reading for my process for coming up with a solid, legally protectable name that will make you money instead of causing you headaches.


Brainstorm Away

Brainstorm your ideas
Time to grab that notebook!!!

- My best tip here is to grab your people, get a giant piece of paper, give them all a beverage or 2 of choice, and just sit.


Once you are 1 or 2 drinks in, explain what you want your new company/product or service to do, who you want to help the most with it, and what you think that will do for the folks who buy it.


Ask your now inebriated friends to start shouting all the words that come to mind. Write the good ones on that giant piece of paper.


- If folks need a little extra inspiration, grab a dictionary or a magazine. Check out some hashtags on IG or a trend on TikTok. See what pops up on your 'Watch Something' tab on Netflix. Grab inspiration from everywhere.


-Then mash it all together until you get that aha moment or 2 or 5.


-Kill anything that isn’t easily pronounceable, memorable, and easy to spell. Remember to KISS.


-If you have a whole list of words, feel free to use the next steps to narrow down your options from there!


- If you get frustrated trying to find something you like, just remember that you don't need to rush it or settle on the first thing you see. And it’s actually better for these next steps if you come ready with 2-5 names that you would be fine with.


Make sure your name options are available in the online space

Once you have a short list of great names, do a simple google search on each one. Go through the first 2-5 pages of Google and make sure nothing similar comes up. If something similar does, that name may not be off the list. But it's definitely going to move further down your list.


Then go check with a domain provider that your name(s) are available. If it’s not available, that's probably a good sign to tweak the name or move on as it will likely already be used on social media platforms too.


But the website domain name is open, can't I use the name?

Not necessarily. Just because someone didn’t claim the domain name doesn't mean someone isn’t already using the name. That’s not a green flag on your being able to use your idea. It sounds like it should be, but it’s not that simple.

Imagine if your friend's favorite TikTok creator hadn't made a website yet. Do you think they would be ok with you opening a business selling things under their username? I can almost promise it would be a no. What I can promise you is that they would have good reason to send you a letter telling you to rename your company and charge for using their username.
#JustSaying

The typical lawyer’s answer here is maybe.

But only after an intellectual property lawyer reviews that information and says you are probably ok.


Get social

Lets get social

Make a list of all the social media platforms you can think of. Yes, all the social media platforms. Why? Because you would likely want your company name to be available for use on all of them if possible.


Then do an account search for each platform and see what comes up. Make sure nothing similar shows up across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc...

Once you have gone through all the platforms, write down which names were available on each. You want to use the same name on every platform so that your customers do not get confused.


Check that your name doesn't already have a trademark


Start with the big boys.

The first step in naming your business is to make sure you check the TESS system and find out if that name is trademarked by someone else before using it as your own brand name.

So head over to their website.....www.uspto.gov/trademarks/

and put your potential brand/business/product names in the TESS search system. It will come back and let you know if there is anything like that in the federal trademark registration.


But what if I see the name I want to use in the TESS system??

Well, talk to a lawyer and see if it's different enough to safely use without approaching the other company or come up with a plan to get permission from the other company to use such a similar name. Business names are precious to some business owners who spent years building their brands. Other businesses may not even be using it anymore. And maybe willing to negotiate a deal with or even sell it to a small business.


Then double check your state.

Just because the federal trademark hasn't been claimed doesn't mean some budget-conscious super-local business owner didn't already claim the name in your state.

State trademark registration is MUCH cheaper than federal just on the fees. Virginia charges $30 for a state trademark registration per class, whereas the federal system charges $225+ per class. But it covers you for 50 states instead of 1.

But each state has its own regulatory agency to deal with marks. The Division of Securities and Retail Franchising is the big dog you have to deal with for trademarks and service marks in Virginia. In Maryland, they have another, and in North Carolina, another. You get the point.


So go check those databases and make sure nothing similar comes up.


Why do I have to check state and federal?

Well, cuz its makes it that much more likely that your name is a safe choice. But If you do business in numerous states, prefer more legal protection, and want to use the proverbial ® symbol, you’ll need to file federally. However, if you plan to operate in only one state for the foreseeable future, a state-level trademark may suffice. You just lose out on some larger protection.

Then go claim your name and start licensing your newly claimed intellectual property. That's how you make money with a name.

The only way to be sure your business name isn't going to get you in legal trouble from the very beginning is to work with a great trademark/intellectual property lawyer.


The only way to actually be able to enforce other businesses not using your name and have those legal protections is to register that mark with the USPTO, claim your rights, and tell the world you created something amazing. This article will help you bring a trademark attorney solid names that are worth trying to trademark, save you money, and save your business time.


 

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when naming your company. We hope that the list of tips we've provided will help make this process easier for you. It allows you to find a name that is perfect for your business!


If all of this sounds exhausting and confusing (cuz it is), make a discovery call appointment with InLine to see if we can help you protect the name you want to claim for your future wealth generator.

 

**Disclaimer: This is only general information, not legal advice specific to your situation, and does not create a client-attorney relationship between you and Samantha Bradshaw, a Virginia licensed small business lawyer, or InLine Legal, a 100% virtual law firm. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer in your area.


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