Choose Your Business Name
From the Small Business Administration
Choosing a business name is an important step in the business planning process. Not only should you pick a name that reflects your brand identity, but you also need to ensure it is properly registered and protected for the long term. You should also think about your web presence and if the domain name is available.
Here are some tips to help you pick, register, and protect your business name.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN NAMING YOUR BUSINESS
- How will your name look? – On the web, as part of a logo, on social media.
- What connotations does it evoke? – Is your name too corporate or not corporate enough? Does it reflect your business philosophy and culture? Does it appeal to your market?
- Is it unique? – Pick a name that hasn’t been claimed by others, online or offline. A quick web search and domain name search will alert you to any existing use.
CHECK FOR TRADEMARKS
Trademark infringement can carry a high cost for your business. Before you pick a name, use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s trademark search tool to see if a similar name, or variations of it, is trademarked.
IF YOU INTEND TO INCORPORATE
If you intend to incorporate your business, you’ll need to contact your state filing office to check whether your intended business name has already been claimed and is in use. If you find a business operating under your proposed name, you may still be able to use it, provided your business and the existing business offer different goods/services or are located in different regions.
PICK A NAME THAT IS WEB-READY
In order to claim a website address or URL, your business name needs to be unique and available. It should also be rich in key-words that reflect what your business does. To find out if your business name has been claimed online, do a simple web search to see if anyone is already using that name.
Next, check whether a domain name (or web address) is available. You can do this using the WHOIS database of domain names. If it is available, be sure to claim it right away. This guide explains how to register a domain name.
CLAIM YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA IDENTITY
It’s a good idea to claim your social media name early in the naming process – even if you are not sure which sites you intend to use. A name for your Facebook page can be set up and changed, but you can only claim a vanity URL or custom URL once you have 25 fans or “likes.” This custom URL name must be unique, or un-claimed.
REGISTER YOUR NEW BUSINESS NAME
Registering your business name involves a process known as registering a “Doing Business As (DBA)” name or trade name. This process shouldn’t be confused with incorporation and it doesn’t provide trademark protection. Registering your “Doing Business As” name is simply the process of letting your state government know that you are doing business as a name other than your personal name or the legal name of your partnership or corporation. If you are operating under your own name, then you can skip the process.
APPLY FOR TRADEMARK PROTECTION
A trademark protects words, names, symbols, and logos that distinguish goods and services. Your name is one of your most valuable business assets, so it’s worth protecting.
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