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How to Choose, Claim, and Protect Your Business Name – Online and Offline

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How to Choose, Claim, and Protect Your Business Name – Online and Offline

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: January 18, 2012 Updated: October 2, 2014

So you’re starting a business, but what are you going to call it?

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’s properly registered and protected for the long term, and give a thought to whether it’s web-ready. Is the domain name even available? 

So where do you start? Here are some tips to help you pick, register, and protect your business name – online and offline.

Pick a Name That Reflects Your Business Plan

Many businesses start out as freelancers, solo operations, or partnerships. In these cases, it’s easy to fall back on your own name as your business name. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it does make it tougher to present a professional image, build brand awareness, and connect your supply with your target market’s demand.

Here are some points to consider as you choose a name:

  • How will your name look? – On the web, as part of a logo, on social media (remember: Twitter limits character count, so try not to pick a name that’s too long).
  • What connotations does it evoke? – This is very important. 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 (more on this below) 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.

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. This is why naming your business after yourself often just doesn’t cut it. Consider these two examples:  http://www.virginiabeachrentals.com/ has a lot more clout than http://www.jdoebeachrentals.com/. It also has the right combination of key words to ensure it rises to the top in online searches.

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.

You’ll also need to 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 a Twitter name early in the naming process. 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’ve got 25 fans or “likes.” This custom URL name must be unique, or un-claimed. Be warned, once set up, the URL can’t be changed. Ask your friends to become fans of your page, even if it’s only a shell at the start, so you can secure your custom URL sooner rather than later.

Register Your New Business Name

Registering a business name is a confusing area for new business owners. What does it mean and what are you required to do?

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.

Learn about the requirements in your state and how to file in SBA’s Registering Your Doing Business As Name guide.

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. You can file for a trademark for less than $300. This blog post explains the trademark process and how to apply: Protect your Invention or Product - Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright Explained.

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About the Author:

Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Comments:

so many benefits for budgeting in your small business. not only can it help you better manage your expenses and increase your profits but can help you get a needed business loan
A new trademark shields words, labels, icons, and also trademarks that will identify products along with solutions. business name is one of your the majority of beneficial organization possessions.
Company nam is really as essential as our own personal identify, the particular may demonstrates our organization plan.thank you for the guidelines to help me pick,sign-up, as well as protect my personal enterprise name on-line
I have started my business near 1 year ago an i was totally annoyed about that claim an all after reading your article i got little bit confidence and wisdom to run my business. Thanks you.
Excellent post thanks, having recently started a company to manage my website business, I am going to be using this website regularly to gain knowledge and tips for improving all aspects. The marketting section is one I'll be making initial use of, but will be using all areas as this site has everything in one place.
I recently wrote an article on this topic as well called "What Is Branding In Business." One thought from it was that you want to choose a name that can be remembered easily but note that sometimes nonsense words can be the most powerful. Think Google, Expedia, or Flickr. They are powerful because they establish a single word association--an association to their product or service only. -James Duncan, Editor, OpenTheBusiness.com
Business name helps a business to be distinguish with others. Most likely a business must be relevant to what the business offer. I would not name a business food shop if my business is about pets. That how huge the impact of business names. Thanks for the advice Caron! Apartment for Rent in the Philippines, Apartment for Rent in Mandaluyong

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