There are many reasons behind the enormous importance of coming up with a strong business name when starting a company. There is a lot at stake here. It’s more than just a name. Try to think about it this way. When you’re choosing a name – you’re fundamentally choosing the way your brand will be shown to the world.
Now that we’ve acknowledged the importance of having a great business name, let’s see how to get one. Use the following information to discover the path to choosing, registering, and protecting a perfect name for your company.
#1 – Choosing the right name
Feel the name and think visually. If, in your mind, the name fits the covers of all those leading business magazines or looks amazing on a billboard from afar, it’s great. Trust your instincts. You definitely got it right!
It’s your decision. You might be tempted to walk the path of democracy and consult everyone around and ask them about their opinion. Although it might help, it’s certainly better to avoid confusion and involve as few people as possible in the decision making process. Starting a business is a very intimate thing, and choosing the right name should be too.
Find the right balance. It’s very important to find the balance between picking a boring, cliché name and moving towards another extreme and picking a strange, confusing one. If the potential name is simple, you’ll have difficulties standing out. On the other hand, if the name is confusing or difficult to pronounce, it could have difficulties spreading your message, spreading what you’re all about.
Anticipate future greatness. If you’re genuinely dedicated to your business – thinking about the name always comes down to thinking about the future. It’s a good idea to envision a bright future for your company and try to imagine the name you’ve come up with in that perspective. Does it fit the headlines?
Make it brief and stay exclusive. It’s a very busy place – this world we live in. People don’t really have the time to think about long, complicated names. Shorter names are simple and that makes them easier to spot and easier to remember by our subconscious mind. Also, remember to steer away from names similar to existing companies. Not only will you cause confusion and appear shady, but you could also risk legal troubles.
Avoid local names. A lot of the times, business owners start a business having local needs in mind. They typically add a city, state or region in the name of their company. Although this could be an advantage early on, it could prove to be a burden as the company grows past the initial ambitions. Don’t do this. You’re basically betting against yourself if you do it. Always believe in your ideas. No one is going to do it for you.
Try to get it right the first time, but don’t be afraid to change. Ideally, you want to make the right decision every time. But the life and the world aren’t perfect. People are no exception. If it becomes clear you’ve picked a bad name, don’t be afraid to act on it and change it. Time requirements and costs are trivial when compared to the importance of having a great business name.
#2 – Checking for name availability
Now that you’ve found the name that could perfectly represent your business, it’s a good idea to perform an extensive check in order to find out if the name you chose is already being used by another company. Here’s what to do to cover the most ground.
How wide is your presence going to be? Knowing the answer to this question lets you cover only the area relevant to your business. If you want to start a local business, focus on searching for names in your city, county or even at state level. If you aim for a national or worldwide presence, make sure there are no other companies in the country or in the world that are currently using your potential name. If you’re going to start an internet company, start by trying to find if someone uses the same or similar domain name.
Search the Web for information – Google it! The best way to start is by searching for the name wanted on Google. Chances are high that something relevant will show up in the search results and help you in the process. You can also search for pages containing the name on key social media platforms.
Search the local yellow pages. If you’re starting a local small business, start by searching the local yellow pages. Local businesses are very likely to be found on advertising channels like this. Visit YellowPages.com to search for local businesses online.
Search for a related domain name. If your plan is to register a domain name matching the name of your company (which is highly recommended), it’s a good idea to search the domain name registrars and online databases for that particular name. The best way to do this is by searching on an online domain name database. Follow this link to search the WHOIS database. You can also check for domain name availability at GoDaddy.com – the world’s largest domain registrar.
Search on the state level. Every state runs its own database of registered business names. To search the available data – visit the official website of secretary of the state. Visit e-secretaryofstate.com to access a comprehensive list which will help you to find relevant information for each state. You can also search yellow pages for information on the state level.
Try to register the name in your state. You can also check if the name you chose is available in your state by trying to register it online. The registration process is done on the official website of secretary of the state. Follow the steps provided on the website to register your business name.
Find out if your name is already registered as a trademark. There’s a possibility that the name you want to use is already trademarked. Fortunately, it’s easy to check if this is the case. Visit United States Patent and Trademark Office website to learn more about trademarks. To search trademark database directly, visit Trademark Electronic Search System provided by the USPTO.
#3 – Reserving a business name
Name reservation. Sometimes, for different reasons – the future business owners are having difficulties starting their venture immediately. But they still might want to make sure their intended name is safe until they decide to start. If this is the case, the best thing to go for is name reservation.
The purpose of name reservation is to temporarily state your intent to use the selected name. Given their nature, name reservations only last for a short period of time. This time varies from state to state. For instance, reserving a business name in the state of Delaware will put a hold on it for 110 days. In comparison, the reservation will last 60 days in California.
Keep in mind that there is no need for name reservation when you file documents for founding an LLC or a corporation. By filing documents for starting LLC or corporation, you register your business name as a part of the whole process. Only consider name reservation if you are unsure of the time you’ll be needing to gather and file the documentation.
#4 – Registering a business name & Registering a business
Legal structure has a great impact on the process of business registration. Exact steps you should take are different for sole proprietorship and other legal forms businesses might operate under.
Sole Proprietorship. Sole proprietorship is not a separate legal entity. Hence there is no need for registering your business with state authorities. You are only required to register with local authorities and secure local licenses. However, if you’d like to operate under the name different than your own, you’ll need to file for a DBA.
LLC and Corporation. Similar to name reservation, if you want to start a corporation or an LLC, you don’t need to register a business name in a separate process. By filing the documents (Articles of Organization or Articles of Incorporation etc.) the name for your company is also going to be registered as a part of the general process. You can file very easily online through MyNewCompany.com.
Filing for a DBA name (fictitious name)
DBA name is a fictitious name that a company uses to conduct business and it’s different from the company’s legal registered name.
Every company has its registered legal name. But larger companies typically run more than one business, in most cases even across different states. For the purpose of avoiding confusion and in order for everything to be transparent, companies need to file for DBA (doing business as). For instance, a corporation called “Blackline, Inc.” decides to start a fashion business. The name of their new brand is “Colligo”. The corporation needs to file for a DBA name in order for the public and the authorities to know that “Blackline, Inc.” owns and runs “Colligo” stores.
To file for a DBA name, you’ll need to register with the county registrar. Another way to register is by visiting your state’s secretary of state website. Use e-secretaryofstate.com to find the right website for the state you want to operate in.
#5 – Register a trademark to protect your business name
If you feel like you need extra protection, or if you believe your business will become a national or even global phenomenon, you should definitely trademark your business name. The easiest and the best way to register a trademark is by visiting United States Patent and Trademark Office website.
Check the database to see if a trademark is already registered. To search trademark database directly, visit Trademark Electronic Search System provided by the USPTO. Search carefully for identical and even similar marks that might already be registered in the same field you want to operate in.
Registering a trademark. Registering a trademark is not the only way to protect your name. The first company to start using a distinctive name while offering particular products or services will get trademark rights under common law. However, registered trademarks enjoy much stronger protection than the regular marks.
Take a look at this hypothetical situation. Your company was the first to use a name (but didn’t register a trademark). Some other company registered the similar or identical name. Your subsequent request to register a trademark will be rejected by the U.S Patent and Trademark Office. You’d be in a very difficult position regarding the chances of winning the legal battle. According to US. Patent and Trademark Office, the time needed for response regarding trademark applications is up to 6 months.
#6 – Changing a business name
Changing a business name is a very difficult process with many aspects to it. Ideally, you’d really want to take your time and get it right the first time. If you didn’t, don’t despair. Here’s everything you need to do if you decide to change the name of your business.
– Notify your secretary of state
– File for a new “Doing Business As” name
– Revisit and update your business licenses and permits
– Update contracts, agreements and business documents
– Inform the tax authorities (the IRS / state and local revenue agencies)
– Obtain a new Employer Identification Number (it’s only needed in rare cases)
The business name you choose is going to be related to just about everything your business does. Spending considerable time on coming up with the right one is absolutely worth it.
Since you’ll need a lot of planning – knowledge and patience are your best friends along the way. Hopefully, this article helped you gain some perspective on one of the essential parts of starting a business.