The Wall Street Journal published an article called, “Name That Firm: What should you call your business? It’s more important than you think.” The article stressed how “[t]here’s so much riding on a company’s name,” but noted that companies fail to adhere to basic guidelines for choosing a company name, such as it being unique, easy to remember, and simple to look up. The article even noted that the inability to register the domain name corresponding to the company name is not detrimental.
While the article is informative, it fails to recognize a few other important considerations when choosing a company name.
- Trademark searches for the company name are critical. Your selection of a company name, and subsequent use of it as a brand or trademark, can subject you to liability for trademark infringement should there be a preexisting use of the same or similar mark. In addition, should there be a preexisting trademark registered with the USPTO, you could face $100,000 damages and be forced to rebrand. Why not spend the money up front to determine trademark availability?
- There is a difference between a trademark and a trade name. While some trade names can also be trademarks (e.g. Nike), a trade name is the company name. Trademarks, on the other hand, identify origin of and distinguish goods or services from one another. A trademark is essentially a brand. A trademark availability search should be coupled with a trade name search (which would include LLC and corporate filings in a state) to determine whether or not the company name is truly available.
- A domain name corresponding to the company name is ideal. Type-in navigation continues to be one of the primary, if not the primary, way Internet users access a company online. A domain name availability search is just as important as a trademark and trade name availability search. In addition, searching through available domain names is yet another way to name a company.
Ultimately, naming a company is more difficult than people anticipate. The proper time, attention, and budget must be allotted. Not only are the catchy, unique factors important, but the legal ramifications of selecting a company name that infringes upon the trademark of another or registering a domain name that results in cybersquatting can be costly. Consultation with an experienced trademark and domain name attorney, a trademark availability search, a trade name availability search, and a domain name availability search are all necessary in order to ensure a proper company name is chosen.