Trademark Your Business Name: Best Practices for Creating and Protecting Your Name

The name you choose for your small business will make a big difference. Do you think Blue Ribbon Sports is a good name? It’s not too bad. But, not as good as the name the owners changed it to. You know the company by its current name, Nike.

That small company started out with $1200 in the bank. Today it’s a multi-billion dollar sports apparel empire. Would it be so big if they had kept the name Blue Ribbon Sports?

Selecting the right names for startups is not an easy decision. The name needs to appeal to customers, be legally available, and make you happy, all at the same time. Let’s look at how to find the right name and how to protect it once you find it.

Call for 30-minutes of free legal advice on how to trademark your business name:

Part 1 – Finding the Right Name
The business name you select will impact your entire business. It will affect your business branding, marketing efforts, and online presence. It needs to be memorable, yet good for SEO purposes. Your business name is often the first impression potential customers have. It can even impact your company’s ability to get financing.

The first step to finding that perfect names for startups is to brainstorm as many ideas as possible. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Write down every word you can think of related to your business niche or industry.
  • Use the thesaurus to widen the word pool.
  • Add in words describing how you want customers to feel about your product.
  • Include the actions your employees will take to provide your service.
  • Include any colors or special descriptors you want to emphasize.

With this pool of words, start combining them into potential business names. Try to come up with at least 20 business name options. Discard any that you don’t like. Every one of them that makes your final cut should be a business name that you can be proud of for years to come.

With this list of potential business names, the next step is to see which ones are truly viable. You want to make sure each name will work long-term and in the real world.

  • Run the list of business names by your friends and family. Ask them for their honest opinion.
  • Make sure a name doesn’t have a double meaning that has lewd or sexual overtones.
  • Avoid hard to spell names. You want your customers to have no problems finding you.
  • Avoid names that will limit your future options. A name like “Wedding Gowns of Canton” limits both your location and your product line.
  • Search the internet for businesses with the same name. It’s always better to have a unique name or at least one that’s unique to your niche or industry.
  • Make sure you can secure a “.com” domain for your company. Customers think “.com” websites are more established than “.biz”, “.net” or “.org” web sites.
  • Look for business names that mean something to your business. For example, Frank’s Fitness would work better for a gym than Frank’s Place.

If you want to take an extra step to make sure the name is viable, conduct a survey of potential customers. Have them rate each name for your type of business. Ask them for comments on why they rated each one. It should give you strong insights into what attracts them and what does not.

At this point, you should have a shortened list of business names that are viable. Now, it’s time to make sure you can secure the business name legally.

  • Check the USPTO.gov website to find out if you can trademark business name. It’s not always necessary to trademark. However, it will protect you from others trying to copy your business.
  • Search the Ohio Secretary of State’s list of registered businesses. That will tell you if someone else has a legal right to the name. You can search at https://businesssearch.sos.state.oh.us/.

With a firm name in mind, the final step is to verify the name will not infringe on another company’s identity. The best way to do this is to have an attorney’s office do a comprehensive search. Corpus Law Inc can do this for you.

Part 2 – Protecting Your Business Name
Once you have a business name that’s viable and available, you need to take steps to protect it.

Register your business name with the State of Ohio. This will ensure no other company can use the name within the state. The process is simple.

Go to the Business Portal on the website for the Ohio Secretary of State (https://www.sos.state.oh.us/). You can register online or by filing the paperwork through the mail. You can find a list of fees associated with registering on the site as well.

You are not required to trademark business name. However, for proper legal protection, we highly recommend it. Here are a few of the benefits of registering your trademark:

  • You have exclusive rights to that trademark. You have stronger trademark protection against someone trying to use it without permission.
  • The trademark becomes an intangible asset to the business. It has an actual value.
  • You can license the trademark to others.
  • You can transfer the trademark at any point in the future. You can do this without selling the rest of the business.
  • You have the right to use the “®” symbol, which adds a certain prestige to your marketing.

Registering your business with the US Patent and Trade Office is relatively easy.

  • Go to their website at USPTO.gov.
  • Fill out the online registration form. It will take about one to two hours.
  • It will cost $375 per class.
  • The full process for obtaining the trademark usually takes 9 to 12 months.
  • You can check the progress of the trademark process through the USPTO.gov website.

Finding the right business name and obtaining trademark protection are critical parts of starting a new company. While you aren’t required to have an attorney to file with the Ohio SOS or the USPTO, it is highly recommended. An attorney has the experience and expertise to file the paperwork properly. This helps avoid delays in the registration process.

Do you need help registering and protecting your new business name?

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Chris Corpus

Founding Partner at Corpus Law Inc

This article does not provide legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about this topic or if you have other legal questions, do not hesitate to contact Chris Corpus, Esq. of Corpus Law Inc at 216-973-2475. Copyright Christopher A. Corpus 2016.