Your Brand Depends on Your Great Business Name Being Protected

Here are six strategies to craft a name that grabs attention, but not for legal reasons.

learn more about Aaron Keller

By Aaron Keller • Nov 13, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Deciding on a brand name can be a difficult and lengthy process, but when time and effort are invested in finding the right name, it will grow into one of your most important brand assets.

Names are simple little things. They are jumbles of letters, actual words, phrases or ancient words. Whatever the origin, a name is only considered your brand name when it's protected in commerce.

Achieving a protectable name is important for the asset value of your brand, but it is also defensively important to ensure not only that your name is protected, but your brand as a whole is protected well into the future.

Make sure to run your potential name through Internet searches and USPTO.gov trademark searches to confirm the name is not being used by other brands or businesses. Once you know your name is available, go through the proper steps to get it trademarked. This will help safeguard your choice and your brand moving forward.

Related: Get Over the Business-Naming Hump With These 5 Strategies

The protectable "leg of the stool" is the one most likely to leave the deepest scar if proper steps are not taken to find an available name and have it trademarked. Here are six ways to strengthen the trademark protection of a name:

1. Be creative

Think outside the box, brainstorm unusual words and find unique pairings. More distinctive names have a better chance of passing a trademark filing.

2. Differentiate

Change the spelling of a word, use odd word pairings or add accents to letters to make the name stand out and differentiate it from competitors.

3. Dig deep

Find words that are not commonly used in everyday language and conversations. Start by brainstorming common words and build from those, pushing farther out to the fringes of the English language to uncover uncommon words that evoke the feeling and tone that you're striving for.

Related: 7 Terrible Naming Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make

4. Find an emotional connection

Craft a name that brings about pleasant memories or thoughts that will create an emotional bond with the intended audiences. This will help narrow down potential name choices as well as guide you to a name that fits within the concept of the brand or business.

5. Search

Check potential names on USPTO.gov and conduct a thorough search on Google to ensure no other businesses are using the potential names.

6. Enlist an expert

Experts of naming have systems in place that assist in finding unique and creative names. They also know how to navigate trademark laws. Because it can be a complicated process to finding a good -- and protectable -- name, enlisting the help of an expert can save time and money down the road.

Remember that it takes time and patience to find a name that is available and protectable. However, if proper steps aren't taken to arrive at an available name, the risk of stepping on an existing trademark can be high. Avoid extra money and hassle by giving careful attention to the process and taking proper steps up front.

Related: Protect Your Business Name: Tips on How to Secure a Trademark (Infographic)

Aaron Keller

Managing Principal, Capsule

Aaron Keller is a founding partner and the managing principal of Capsule, a brand design agency in Minneapolis. He has lead brand development, strategy, research and naming for more than 15 years, working with brands as large as Jack Daniel's, Target and 3M, and as small as one-person startups. He has written two books on the subjects of logo and package design: Design Matters//Logos and Design Matters//Packaging.

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