Choosing your business name is more than the relatively narrow exercise of deciding what “fits” and developing a brand off of it. Instead, you must include a broad search on where your brand fits with other business brands, or you could be sued for using their trademarks.
Recent business name trademark disputes found in the media include:
In each of these cases, one of the entities was forced to rebrand.
So how do you go about finding the best of both worlds—a name you love that doesn’t infringe on another company’s trademark?
Here are some tips to help you choose a business name that won’t infringe on a trademark:
1. Do a comprehensive search of business names using numerous sources.
All U.S. states have a Secretary of State or general state website that will allow you to search through business names. Enter in the names you’re considering, and see if anything similar pops up in your state. Also, do a search in any other state or country that you intend to do business in.
2. Check Godaddy.com or GoogleDomains.com to make sure you can get the domain name.
Although domain and trademark laws are different, if you cannot get the domain, there is a distinct possibility that your use may infringe on another entity’s name, subjecting you to liability.
3. Search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Even if your business name isn’t directly infringing on another company’s name, you could still be violating another trademark. If a company holds a registered trademark that your company name may be likely to cause confusion with, you could be vulnerable to a lawsuit. Be sure to search this database for all misspellings, synonyms, and similar-sounding names.
Doing all this due diligence doesn’t guarantee that you’ll never run into problems with your business or product name: this is an arcane and complex area of law.
To really ensure that you’re choosing the safest name for your business, consider a quick consult with a trademark attorney. One conversation could save you thousands of dollars!