How To: Pick and Secure a Legal Business Name
Once you decide to start a business, one of the first things you will need is a business name. Naming a company is deeply personal and often an emotional process; similar to naming one’s baby or pet. Often the goal is to distill the essence of the name into one word (no pressure!) and help a customer have a consistent and recognizable experience with every brand interaction.
Generally founders take two paths to naming their new companies. They either choose a descriptive name that explains their products and services or select a random business name that is personally meaningful. After making the initial choice, few founders put much thought or time into researching their chosen business name. This is often a costly mistake.
So, consider taking the simple steps outlined below to successfully pick and secure a good company name:
Research Available (and Memorable) Business Names
Researching your intended company name will help you maximize your time and money while avoiding the potential costs of rebranding. It will also help you avoid legal complications and costs associated with consumers confusing your company with other similarly named businesses.
Common things to check include, but are not limited to: (1) Make sure no other businesses operate with the same, or similar, name(s) in your (or a similar) industry. (2) Ensure no current or pending trademark registrations of the same or similar name in your (or a similar) industry. (3) Research social media handles and domain name availability. (4) Confirm there is no controversy or negative publicity surrounding the name — in numerous languages. (5) Validate the idea that your target market appears to like the name and finds it memorable.
Acquire Social Media Accounts and URL’s
Social media has truly grown to be one of the top ways for businesses to advertise goods and services. Quickly acquire a company website address(es) and social media account(s) in all major channels, even if you do not plan to use them right away. Check to see which ones are available with your chosen company name and secure your rights to at least one of those websites right away through an Internet domain registry.
Register Your Trademark with the USPTO
Registering your trademark is advisable, though not required, because it will give you the most protection and additional rights. You can register both within states and for nation-wide protection. Even if you are not ready to start offering a product or service right away, you can file for an “intent-to-use” trademark application, which allows you more time to prepare, and offers some protection to the name.
Register within the County of Business Operation
When you incorporate your business, you will have a formal suffix, explaining what type of entity the company is (i.e., LLC, Inc., Corp.) The company name with the suffix is your official company name, but if you choose, you can use a different name publicly on your products and services.
To do this file a fictitious business name (such as doing business as or “d.b.a.”) with local authorities; typically in the county in which the business has its principal place of operations. You will need one even if you are just dropping that formal entity suffix in your public marketing or branding. Depending on the importance of the d.b.a.’s you may need to file for additional protection with the USPTO and obtain additional website address(es) and social media account(s).
This post is co-authored with guest author Rachel Fischbein, founder of Law On The Runway. She loves the fashion industry and supporting other entrepreneurial women.