Anne-Marie Saint-John, Alva, Long Island City, NY >
If you want to start a new business, one of the biggest things to decide on at the start of this journey is your company name. After all, the business name you select can have what can only be described as a profound effect on your marketability, but there is another, more pressing matter to consider: the legalities of naming a business.
In this post, we are going to give you a host of valuable tips to help you conceptualize your business name. We will also provide you with essential information about any relevant state and federal restrictions you may need to consider.
Names can be incredibly powerful things, and this applies to businesses, products, and even people.
Did you know that John Wayne was actually called Marion Morrison before the character was branded? Or that Sicilian sea bass is actually called toothfish?
Ironically, a couple named Sam and Ella decided to name their business after themselves. What could be so bad about that, you ask? Sam and Ella started a pizzeria, a food business, and if you say their names together, you’ll be able to almost hear the word “salmonella.”
Now, if you’re considering doing this, and many people do so with great success, then just make sure that you are mindful of the potentially limiting factors it could place on your business (more on this later).
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So, if you didn’t already appreciate the importance of finding the best name for your business, now you can see some of the reasons getting it right from the start is important and taking the time to research a good name for your start-up is a worthy investment of your time.
It’s a great question, and many people do often name their business with some variation of their own name. There are generally no legal elements to consider with this (we’ll talk about the legalities of naming a business shortly), but you should consider your long-term plans carefully. For instance, if you think you might want to sell your business at some point, moving on can be more challenging when you have named the company after yourself. It could also send the wrong signal that the business is overly dependent on the founder or force the new owners to rebrand, which is something that would directly impact the sale price.
Before you start to get creative with ideas for naming a business, the legalities need to be noted. Mainly, these relate to regulations, copyright, and trademarks.
Any new business will need to register the name it chooses in each state in which it will operate. The state of incorporation will become the business’s home state. You will also need to make sure your company name is not already registered in that state, as it needs to be completely distinctive. So, if you think you have the perfect name for your business, just make sure that you first perform a check with all of the states you want to register with.
Here’s one website we found that enables you to check business name registrations for all U.S. states for free.
Another vital restriction you need to be aware of is copyright law. Federal law can also serve as another hurdle to overcome. As a new business, you are unable to use copyrighted expressions as part of your business name. For example, if somebody has developed a slogan, then your company is forbidden from using that slogan as part of its name.
To perform a search, go to the U.S. Copyright Website, where you will find a database of registered works.
It’s also worth noting that not all copyrighted works will appear here. So, if you think you have a great idea for a new company name, always turn to Google and do a quick search online to be certain.
In addition to the above, there are other forms of IP protection, namely patents and trademarks. Both of these are managed in totality by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, also known as the USPTO. However, where a company name is concerned, it’s only the trademarks that are relevant, as patents solely apply to designs or inventions.
Your company name options could be further limited by federal trademark laws. Essentially, a trademark is a name or label that identifies a business, product, or service. In law, a trademark is a form of intellectual property that belongs to an existing individual or organization. As a new business, you are not permitted to use a company name that infringes on the trademark of an existing organization.
To check existing trademarks, you can visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website.
This quick and simple search will tell you immediately if your proposed company name will infringe on an existing trademark.
In this final section of our article, we wanted to share a few pearls of wisdom with regard to choosing a new name for your business.
Keep it simple, and don’t use hard-to-spell words; otherwise, people might find it difficult to find you online.
If you include the city name of your business in the company name, you could limit your options if you decide to expand outside this area in the future. Also, if you plan to sell wedding dresses but later want to expand into offering prom dresses and more, by using the phrase “wedding dresses” in your business name, you are, again, limiting your potential offerings.
If you name your business without being able to buy the .com domain name, it could limit your business. Companies with the .com extension are naturally viewed as more established. This is also the extension people will type into their search engines; if a competitor has the .com name already, then make sure you have double-checked all of the legal elements of your company name first.
Although you want the name to be catchy, you also want it to be relevant. If you have the opportunity, ask peers, friends, family, or anyone else you trust for feedback on the shortlisted names before committing. You never know, they might just provide some valuable feedback that you may not have considered.
Choosing a new name for a business isn’t something that you want to rush. It’s more of a process that you need to go through, particularly when you consider the legal checks, domain name checking, and feedback you should have before making a commitment. As a final tip, always make sure you print or save a copy of the checks you are performing with respect to copyright, trademarks, and anything else related to this process.