The BizFilings blog covering business tips and trends.
What's In a Business Name? For a New Business, Plenty
Published on Feb 4, 2010
Read our article, 'What's In a Business Name? For a New Business, Plenty' at 'Time to Start Up,' the small business blog by BizFilings.
Naming a new business is a crucial step, one that should be given careful consideration. Your name can help customers find and remember your company. It can evoke your mission, your products and services, or that intangible "something" that draws people to your door.
On the other hand, your company's name can leave you lost in a sea of too-similar names (First State Bank), evoke little or nothing (AirTran, Comerica and Vonage are oft-cited examples), or bring undesirable images or ideas to mind (such as BookGoo and Fairtilizer).
If the Internet is to play any role in your business—and it's hard to think of a business for which this isn't true—you'll want to choose a name with an identical available URL. A quick search at Whois.net can tell you whether your company name is available as a domain. If so, it's worth the spare change to park the domain while you get your ducks in a row.
Then there's the knotty question of trademark infringement. Get close enough to an existing brand or company name and you may find yourself on the receiving end of a cease-and-desist order. Even without the legal unpleasantness, changing a business name is a messy and costly process that can sometimes lose whatever consumer equity the original name had built.
Fortunately, most potential trademark infringement problems are caught during the process of incorporation at the state level. The name of a corporation, limited liability company (LLC), limited liability partnership (LLP), limited partnership (LP), or nonprofit corporation must be distinguishable on the records of the state government in which the incorporation takes place, which means it must not be deceptively or confusingly similar to another name already in use in that state. If the name is not sufficiently unique, the state will reject the company's formation documents.
If you are planning to incorporate or register to transact business (foreign qualify) in another state, performing a name availability check in the intended state(s) will tell you if your desired name is already in use by another company in that state. If expansion into other states is a possibility for your company, no matter how remote, it's better to check up front than to risk a mid-course correction down the road.
The Name Inspector—a brilliant blog devoted to the corporate/brand name game