It can be a bit more challenging than it seems to name a small business. A business name needs to be able to differentiate your business from its competitors. It should be unique and original. The business name is also considered its trademark. This means the owner must register the business name and file for a federal trademark to avoid plagiarism.
Let’s take a closer look at key aspects involved in researching and registering a business name.
Tips for naming a small business
How do I name my small business? Picking out a name for your business requires conducting a bit of research. It also means answering certain questions, such as whether the business name can be easily spelled and how the name is able to reflect the business and its brand. As you brainstorm ideas, follow these best practices for choosing a business name.
Easy to spell
If you are having a hard time spelling your business name, your customers are likely to face the same problem. Keep the name of your business easy to spell. A helpful rule of thumb to follow is picking a business name that is five to letters in length and contains at least one consonant.
Easy to pronounce
This goes hand-in-hand with the tip about spelling. The name of your business will appear everywhere, from signage in storefronts to social media handles. It should be easy for anyone to pronounce the name of your business. Moreover, the name should also sound appealing to your target audience.
Try saying the name of the business out loud. Listen to how it sounds. Can you understand what the business does or offers just from hearing its name? Is it meaningful or aesthetically pleasing? You may ask for a second opinion through a family member or friend or associate of the business. Take everyone’s feedback into consideration for a business name that makes sense and sounds good.
It might look cool to have a business name full of special symbols like dollar signs or numbers. However, this may confuse customers whenever they try to recall the startup’s name. It can also lead to difficulty later on when picking out a domain name for the business.
Keep your business name free of clutter. Avoid using hyphens, numbers, and other special symbols.
Don’t depend on clichés
Remember to always look at the core of the business.
What is its value proposition? What does it do and offer that is unique in its industry? Try to avoid thinking so far outside the box it confuses everyone. Keep the name of the business as succinct and specific as possible.
Consider relevant keywords
This tends to be a helpful strategy when determining your domain name, and it is also true of picking a small business name.
Consider using relevant keywords when naming your startup. A bakery that sells cakes, for example, may use the word “cakes” somewhere in its business name. (A good example of this is Susiecakes, a California-based bakery and sweet shop.)
Keywords allow you to better detail your offerings. This translates well for SEO purposes once you begin choosing a domain name. Customers typing relevant keywords into Google search will be able to better find your business. In the long run, this strategy does more than allow new and existing customers to find you online. Using keywords can help increase your overall site traffic and search engine rank.
Review lowercase URL
A business named “Speed of Art” on a website may translate to “Speedofart” in its domain name.
An unintentional punch line may be in your business name once it is viewed in lowercase and all as one word in its domain name. Review this name carefully to avoid any potentially embarrassing situations!
Pro tip: take your time when determining your business name. The name of your business should be unique and memorable. Figuring out a name like that may take a little extra effort. You may find it’s helpful to brainstorm a few options for your business, especially once you start preparing for trademark registration.
Conducting a name search
Once you have a few options ready for your small business name, it’s time to conduct a name search. This name search allows you to check on business name availability before you register the business name.
There are a few approaches you may use for conducting a search. Entrepreneurs may decide to search through a trademark database. The USPTO offers a trademark database called Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) for entrepreneurs to conduct a name search. When looking up the name, you will be able to see if any trademarks have already been registered under that name or are pending registration. Additionally, you can find marks that are similar to your trademark or are used on related products or for related services.
If you don’t have the bandwidth to conduct a search like that, it’s okay. Third-party incorporation filing organizations that provide trademark search offerings may assist you.
Conduct a domain name search
Much like conducting a name search for a trademark, a similar search may be conducted for domain names. It may be a good idea to brainstorm a few options that could serve as domain names if your exact name is not available.
Think about the domain name extension you would like as well. This may range from options like dot-com (.com) to dot-org (.org). The extension you choose will depend on the kind of business you’re starting. For example, a nonprofit will likely choose a dot-org domain name extension. It is recommended that most businesses choose a dot-com extension when possible.
The dot-com extension, which was initially introduced for eCommerce websites, is now considered the default domain extension. Studies show that over half of all websites use dot-com.
While the popularity of a dot-com extension may make it difficult to obtain, it is worth it for several reasons. Dot-com extensions are among the most popular top-level domains (TLDs) as these domains carry plenty of backlink clout and can even lead to better search rankings from an SEO perspective.
Consider Trademark Monitoring Services
Some third-party incorporation filing organizations may offer trademark monitoring services. This service helps to monitor your trademark application to ensure nobody else attempts to use your unique business name while it is pending registration. If an outside source does attempt to do so, the third-party incorporation service can quickly respond to that attempt.
Using a monitoring service may also provide entrepreneurs with detailed reports about any new registrations that could involve possible conflicting marks. It gives entrepreneurs peace of mind in knowing their mark, while pending, is protected from possible trademark infringement.
Filing trademark registration
You have brainstormed several business names and conducted a name search to ensure that they are available for trademark use. Now it’s time to secure the name. This is done by registering a business name as a trademark.
What are some benefits of trademark registration? Filing for trademark registration allows you to protect your startup’s valuable intellectual property. It gives you exclusive rights to the mark. This means that nobody is allowed to legally use this trademark without the owner’s permission. Any attempts would be considered trademark infringement and may result in a lawsuit.
Filing for trademark registration may be done directly with your state of incorporation’s Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will provide you with the necessary trademark application. Business owners will share information about who they are, what their business does, and the mark they wish to register. Each state will differ with its types of trademark questions, including answering some of the following questions.
A written description of the mark.
A brief description of goods and services used in connection with the mark.
How the mark is used in connection with these goods and services.
The number and class of goods and services connected with the mark.
Dates for which the mark has been used in business by its applicant and in its state of formation.
Upon completing the trademark filing application, you will need to sign and date the document and mail (or email) it to the appropriate Secretary of State’s office address. A filing fee must also be made payable (typically) through a check, money order, or credit card.
Some states, such as Missouri, may also request to see samples of the mark. This may range from business cards to advertisements. Filing requirements do differ from state to state, so it’s wise to check in with your local Secretary of State before submitting your filing.
In the event that you do not have the bandwidth to complete and file a trademark application, you may also work alongside a third-party trademark filing service. They will ask you a few questions about your business and help prepare your trademark application for you. The added assistance of experts makes it even easier to protect and register your business name.
In closing, it is possible to run a business without registering its trademarks. However, this puts your valuable intellectual property at risk of infringement. Rather than take that risk, think about registering your trademark. Ensure your business has exclusive rights to the mark from day one of starting your business.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent services, DBAs, and trademark and copyright filing services. You can find MyCorporation on Twitter at @MyCorporation.