Nothing brings more joy, and stress, than picking a name for your organization.
Why joy? Because you get to brand your enterprise, enjoy all of the emotions experienced when someone says YOUR business name out loud in public. Or, they refer to you as the President/CEO or founder of (insert your business name here). Oh, what a glorious day.
Why stress? That's what we are going to address in this article, today. Believe it or not, picking a name for your business (product or service) is fairly complex. The first step is brainstorming and coming up with a list of possible names that both attract customers/clients, as well as describe the purpose of your business in a unique way.
Let's look at some common examples of business names selling a product:
Tiffany & Co
The list goes on and on. When you read each of the names above, what's the first thing that comes to mind? The product they sell, the logo, or the words themselves? Chances are you thought of each one of them almost simultaneously. These are great examples of effective branding - of product based businesses.
What about service based businesses - those that do not offer tangible goods as their primary source of revenue?
As we asked above, what's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear this set of names? Just as we already stated, these are examples of effective branding.
But why the distinction between the two types (product vs service) of businesses? Because there is a difference in how they are recognized by both the state and federal government - and how they are registered for either a trademark or service mark.
What in the world does a trademark or service mark have to do with your business name?
When selecting a business name, it is critical that you understand the legal ramifications of operating a business under a specific arrangement of characters to represent you, your product, or your service.
It goes without saying that no one would (or should) attempt to use the name "Nike" to sell their own designer shoes and apparel. Why? Because it is an established brand name that is federally registered as a trademark. If you, or anyone for that matter, attempted to use that name to sell their own products, criminal and civil penalties will most likely be the end result.
According to secureyourtrademark.com (2021), "A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or logo that is used to brand, identify, and distinguish a product."
Additionally, "A service mark (or servicemark) is a word, phrase, symbol or logo that is used to brand, identify, and distinguish a service."
Look at the chart below to see how complex this can get:
Inside of your organization, you might have both service marks and trademarks. Although you might not have been thinking in this direction when initially selecting the name of your organization, it's important that you have a basic understanding of how each of these terms apply to your own company.
So how do we stay out of legal trouble and select an appropriate - and catchy - name for your organization? As mentioned above, begin by brainstorming several potential names for your company; then, visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office website to ensure it isn't already in use or protected under federal law:
If there are no search results for your selected name, congratulations, there is a great chance this name has never been registered as a trademark or service mark and you are free to use it for your product or service based organization.
So, get to brainstorming and continue building your enterprise!
To Infinite Success,
The Biz Doc
* Disclaimer: this topic can be infinitely more complex. For more detailed information, we highly recommend that you speak with a trademark attorney that can definitively state that a name is available and no impending litigation will ensue if you use it.