Whether you're thinking about starting a new business or rebranding an existing business, choosing the right business name is an essential part of the planning process. This article will provide you with some tips on how to choose, claim, and protect your business name.
1. Come Up With a Business Name That Represents Your Brand
Think about the message you want to convey to potential clients or customers. Do you want your business to seem warm and inviting? Corporate and professional? Traditional and up-scale? Or high-tech and modern? Your business name should accurately reflect your brand personality, which you'll need to communicate consistently—both verbally (through brand voice) and visually (through the "look and feel" of your website, products, and other marketing materials). If you're not sure how to brand your business, it can be a good idea to meet with a brand consultant.
PayPal is currently suing Paytm, an Indian mobile wallet company, for trademark infringement. As you can see, the business names, colors, and services are very similar.
2. Make Sure No One Else Has Already Claimed the Name You Want
Once you've come up with the perfect name for your business, it's imperative to make sure that no one else has already claimed it. You should avoid any names that are the same or confusingly similar to another business name, product name, or service name out there. If you aren't careful in choosing a unique business name, you might end up getting sued for trademark infringement. Here are some first steps to take when making sure your business name idea isn't already taken:
Google. Perform a Google search of your proposed business name, as well as variations of that name. Look out for international trademarks, too.
Business registries. Search the business registries of your state and surrounding states for business names that are the same or confusingly similar.
Trademark database.Search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's trademark database for identical and confusingly similar trademarks.
Web domain. Check whether a domain name is available for your proposed business name.
Social media. Check whether account names on various social media platforms are available for your proposed business name.
Even if you don't find any business, service, or product names that are identical to yours, there might still be confusingly similar names that could still give rise to legal issues down the line. You may want to consult a trademark attorney about whether it's a good idea to move forward with your proposed business name, or if you should start thinking about a different name for your business.
Your state's Secretary of State website will have a "Business" section where you can register your business name.
3. Register Your New Business Name
Once you've chosen a unique business name that accurately reflects your brand personality, you should register your business name. You can do this by filing a “Doing Business As" (DBA) with your state, which will let your state government know that you are doing business as your chosen business name, as opposed to your personal name or the legal name of your company. Filing a DBA is not to be confused with forming an LLC or incorporating your business, nor does it register your business name as a trademark. You can actually skip this step if you're doing business as the legal name of your company (e.g., Great Ideas, LLC).
4. Apply for Trademark Protection
It's often a good idea to register your business name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Federal trademark law protects words, brand names, symbols, and logos that distinguish a business's goods and services. Your name and branding are incredibly valuable to your business, and registering your trademark will help you go after knockoffs and copycats. Click here to learn more about the benefits of registering your trademark. You can register your trademark on your own, or hire a trademark attorney to do it for you.
Res Nova Law is an intellectual property and business law firm based in beautiful Portland, Oregon, and serving both Oregon and Washington. We're your go-to lawyers for startups and small to midsize businesses in every stage of business growth. If you're interested in registering a trademark for your business, or want to learn more about how other types of intellectual property can protect your business, we can help. Get in touch with our experienced intellectual property and business lawyers today.
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