Naming a business can be thrilling and spooky. It’s exciting because naming a business always gives a feeling of getting closer to bringing your fledgling business into the world. But it can also be stressful because the wrong name can cost you.
Today’s environment is such that, even when you do everything right according to the local authorities, you can still be blindsided by a business owner from a far off jurisdiction.
When a local business owner started her housecleaning business a couple of years ago, she did her research, registered her name with the provincial corporate registry, and started building her business. A few months later she was advised by her lawyer that she should stop using her business name because someone else had the trademark pending for all of Canada.
Now, many months later, she has successfully changed her business name, but the cost has been considerable. She has redone her business cards, brochures, vehicle signage, media advertising, and rebuilt her website at naturallyneat.ca.
This situation is not unique. With that in mind, here are a few tips for naming a business.
1. Search your name ideas using any of the search engines, such as Google, Bing or Yahoo. Too many hits might mean the name is overused. Be sure to try using different search engines, because they don’t all pull up the same information.
2. Use the built-in search functions at domain registry websites to determine if the domains are available for your preferred business name. A couple of domain search websites are Godaddy and Hover. The search results will tell you whether your name is available in the .com, .net, .org, .biz or .info versions. If your name idea is already taken, some of the registry sites will also list a number of suggestions that are close or related to your name.
3. Keep the name as brief as possible. Throughout the life of your business, you and others will write, type, think or speak your business name many times. If you wish to inspire others to repeat your business name, make it easy for them to do so. The worst names are those that are difficult to pronounce, or they are so long that you need an acronym to shorten them. Brief is better.
4. Search copyrights and trademarks to determine if someone has already secured the name. You can either hire a trademark lawyer to do this or you can do it yourself by visiting the appropriate government agency or website. Use a search engine to search using keywords “trademark” and your location (example, “trademark Canada”) to locate the website. Visit the Canadian Intellectual Property Office website or the United States Trademark and Patent Office website.
5. Ask others for feedback on your business name. How does the name fit the business? What do others think of when they hear the name? Does the name sound right for the image you wish to portray?
6. Once you have chosen your name, register it in the jurisdiction where you intend to operate the business. For example, in British Columbia you will need to register your business with the Corporate Registry.
A great business name will help you avoid costly court disputes or name change exercises, at the same time drawing the right customers to your business. A little due diligence before settling on a business name can save you loads of trouble later. While there are no guarantees, the steps above should help you narrow your focus and choose that magic and hopefully – unique business name.