Business Strategy

Name matters – Guide to Naming a Startup Company

Name matters – Guide to Naming a Startup Company
Naming a startup - name matters

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Google recently chose to name its holding company Alphabet. The twist? BMW already has a patent on the name Alphabet- it’s the name of one of the subsidiary companies of BMW. It also holds the trademark on the name, owning the domain alphabet.com. It’s yet to be judged whether Google and BMW will get embroiled in a trademark infringement issue regarding Alphabet. But this is an instance of how important it is to check thoroughly whether a name is already under use before deciding to adopt it for a company.

Also Read : Equity Stake Of Founders & Investors – No Need For Contention

Choosing a name for a startup is in fact one of the fun parts of the beginning part of launching a business. Coming up with a name for the company is an elaborate process involving helpful friends who are creative, tonnes of beer and pizza. But in the end, for the owners of the company the most important question in this case is: ‘Is this name being used by anybody else, anywhere else in the world? Is it unique enough? Is free or available?

After finding the perfect name, people tend to get enthusiastic and start printing it on business cards. But before doing that, it would be wise to check the availability of the name chosen by Googling it (or by searching it on the internet using a preferred search engine), to look up whether the same name and its variations or similar names exist in usage under the trademark of other companies.

A few tips on how to go about checking the availability of the name chosen for a startup:

Searching the State’s Corporate Name Database

If the plan is to incorporate the business, the state’s corporate name database should be checked. This database has a list of all the names of corporations, limited partnerships, and LLCs in the state which are registered with it. If, in case, the name or a similar name is being used by another company, and consequently, could cause confusion, the name will not be allowed to register.

Looking out for Federal and State Trademarks that are Conflicting

After looking the name up in the Internet and on the state’s corporate name database, it should also be checked whether a registration has already been filed for trademark under the intended name. What is a trademark? It’s nothing but a symbol, word or phrase which is used to make a product or a company distinct from others. While conducting the trademark search online on some relevant database, it is necessary to check for variation of spelling and also abbreviations; if the chosen name is a little different from one registered already, it may not be used, because, for the consumers it may be confusing.

If the names they belong to different industries, they can still be used. But the question remains at the end of the day, whether the name is likely to cause any confusion with it exists already as trademark for a different company. A trademark lawyer comes in handy in these situations.

Though more focus tends to be on federal trademarks, it is possible to acquire the trademark on a name at the state level. At times, some companies have no desire of functioning outside the parameters of their state, so they choose to do the latter of the aforementioned while registering. It would be a smart move to check the trademark database as well of any state in which the company intends to function. 

Follow State Mandates for Names of Companies

Though there may be no effect on the owner of the company regarding how the customers refer to it, some legal parameters are required to be followed while naming the LLC or corporation, and these requirements may of course vary a little bit from one state to another. Generally, the words ‘Incorporated’, ‘Limited’, or ‘Corporation’, or their respective abbreviations have to be mandatorily present within the name of the company. Similar rules persist in case of LLCs.

There are some words which are prohibited from being included in the names of companies or which need to be approved specially by state agencies. Every state has a list of words that are restricted which must also be consulted before choosing a name.

Register the Domain Name

Once the name of the company has been chosen, in case the owner plans on creating a website for the business, it would be a smart move to purchase the domain name from before so that it’s not taken by another company, even if the website is not launched right away.

In order to check whether the chosen domain name is already taken a free search can be run through a WHOIS database which has the list of all the domain names that are in existence. While choosing the domain name the top-level domain- everything which appears after the ‘.’-must be kept in mind.

Reservation of Names for the Social Media

Another thing to be done once the company name is selected is to reserve the name on platforms of social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. It’s the same as with domain names, grabbing the name of choice for display on social media before another company takes it up.

Also Read : To Mentor Fledgling Startups

In Conclusion

While launching a brand, the name of the company is the most essential element. Before all the effort, time, and money is spent on publicizing the company the name of the company, it should be checked whether the name is available and allowed for utilization in the first place. With the ideal name chosen, more effort can be put into turning that name into a household one.

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