How to Choose, Claim, and Protect Your Business Name – Online and Offline
by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator
- Created: January 18, 2012, 7:42 am
- Updated: July 19, 2012, 8:54 am
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.
- Protect your Business Name or Risk Losing It!
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