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How to Avoid a Business Naming Disaster

by Marcia Yudkin, Head Stork, Named At Last

An entrepreneur of my acquaintance, in a rush to get his new company up and running, launched his new online publishing venture with a press release and great industry fanfare.  Not three days later, he received the kind of letter business owners dread:  a cease-and-desist request from the lawyer for a company that said the name of the new venture infringed on their trademark.  Ouch!

My colleague held emergency brainstorming sessions with his cronies, registered a new domain, announced the name change, only to receive a barrage of criticism from British and Australian colleagues that for them, the new name had negative and even somewhat obscene connotations.  He changed the company name and corresponding URL again.  Quadruple ouch!

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The moral of the story:  Names matter.  In your inventor’s zeal for getting the technical stuff right, don’t leave a blank for the company name and then pick one at the last minute.  Take the time to choose a business name that has these characteristics:

  • Suggests the content or subject area of your business

  • Has pizzazz

  • Makes a positive impression on your target market

  • Can be easily spelled and pronounced

  • If the company will mainly do business online, corresponds to an available domain

  • Is legally available for use

Tips for Brainstorming Names

Simply follow these steps:

1.  Find 8-10 company names that you like – not necessarily in your own industry.

2.  Analyze the type or formation of these names.  For instance:

Google, Yahoo – short, sounds humorous

Dr. Pepper, Green Giant – based on a fictitious character

Done Yesterday, Call Caren! – describes a result or says what to do

Speedy Muffler, One Stop Frame Shop – states the competitive advantage

A Quiet Touch, Tranquility Day Spa – emphasizes a feeling

Queen of Clean, A Hire Authority – catchy, uses a meaningful rhyme or pun

Riviera Diamonds, Niagara Well Services – evocative geographical reference

3.  Use the patterns of the names you like to think up new names that fit your line of work, target audience, competitive strengths and personal preferences.  Always brainstorm dozens of possibilities, not just a few.

4.  Run your candidates through the criteria listed above.  Get feedback from trusted friends, clients and colleagues.  Select your top choice from those remaining.

Checking the Availability of Company Names

The surest way to avoid getting a cease-and-desist letter is to hire an attorney to do a trademark search.  Refer also to these free online resources for business name availability in various English-speaking countries:

United States:
http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=tess&state=6da0uq.1.1

Canada:
http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/cipo/trademarks/search/tmSearch.do

United Kingdom:
http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/

Australia:
http://www.abr.business.gov.au/

New Zealand:
http://www.companies.govt.nz/pls/web/dbssiten.main

Name your venture well!

Stuck on thinking up or choosing your new company or product name?  Get help generating a snappy business name or powerful product name.

Copyright 2006 Marcia Yudkin.  No reprinting or republishing without written permission.

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