6.5 minute read

Many times your business’ intellectual property is its most valuable asset.

A company’s IP is what distinguishes it from the rest. There are many things to consider and discuss with your personal business development attorney before selecting your brand name. Read on to find out more:

1. Consider your future goals

How do you envision the next few months? Years? Do you plan to stay local or expand nationally? Will your product be sold via the Internet? If so, plan for your product to cross state lines and even international borders. Will you be opening brick and mortar locations? Selling a franchise? These are all important considerations to keep in mind as you develop your brand name.

Depending on your product/service, it may be best to avoid any geographic designations in order to avoid stifling your business’ growth. More on that when we get to #5.

2. Avoid descriptive or generic terms

Let’s say you plan to open a pet accessory boutique in downtown. This boutique will mainly offer accessories for household pets, such as collars, leashes, toys, outfits, and more. Selecting a name such as ‘Paula’s Pet Products’ or ‘Kameron’s Kute Kollars’, while appealing for its alliteration, is likely to be rejected when it comes to filing for intellectual property protection, because it is directly describing the goods that will be sold in connection with the mark. While a name descriptive of your product or service is tempting in that it tells potential consumers exactly what you offer, your mark loses strength and runs the risk of being rejected by the US Patent and Trademark Office for registration and therefore, protection.

Aim for a name that does not describe your product/service directly. Think of some of the strongest brands in our world today. That list may include Kodak, Target, Apple, 3M. These brands do not use descriptive terms in branding their products. Imagine if Target instead named itself ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’. While this may be true (no bias here), I have a feeling that the USPTO would be inclined to reject it…not to mention that Disney would have a bone to pick with the red retail giant.

3. Don’t be a Copycat

Another possibly tempting option may be selecting a name similar to something already out there on the market. Working off the example above: Paula decides she actually wants to call her brand ‘Petko’. You may have noticed that this is awfully similar to the existing company Petco, with a K instead of a C. One of the factors that the USPTO considers in determining registration is whether or not the applied-for mark is confusingly similar to another mark that sells similar goods or services. This is one risk you run in selecting a name similar to one already out there. While there’s a chance of you being on the receiving end of a cease and desist demand letter should you stick with such a name, you are also doing yourself and your business a disservice by selecting a name that is similar to another already-existing company. Set yourself and your business apart from the crowd and go for a name that is unique and unheard of.

4. Keep it Short, Sweet, Unique, and Memorable

Again, you want it to be a name that consumers will remember. Spend time brainstorming ideas for words that may be reflective of your brand, your product, or your consumer. A coined or invented term is a great option (Kodak, Airbnb, Lego, Adidas) or something completely unrelated to your product (Target for grocery stores, Apple for technology, Aldo for shoes). Ideally, you want something easy to remember and without any confusing spelling.

5. Avoid being restrictive

Some entrepreneurs think that tying their brand to a specific location gives it roots or character. Consider whether or not making this connection will actually limit your growth. For example, Kentucky Fried Chicken, while beginning in the southern state, eventually transformed its brand to KFC in order to foster growth and avoid limiting its brand potential.

You also risk not receiving USPTO registration by associating a geographic location with your brand. The manner in which a geographic term is used and the type of mark—for example, trademark, certification mark, etc.—affects protection. Check out our post on Who, What, WHERE? Use of Geographic Location in your Trademark.

6. Consult with a Business & Brand Protection Lawyer

Take the time to consult with a trusted lawyer. This offers you the perspective of a professional that can assist in strategic decision making/implementation related to your brand and business. A lawyer can help you conduct a clearance search early on in your business development process so that you do not invest further resources in a name you cannot use long term. Click here for more information on trademark clearance searches and here to book a call with Yasmine.

Final Thoughts

Selecting your brand name and additional names for your products or services is a task you should spend some significant time working on. This is not a process you want to rush! Take your time and consult with professionals that can help you navigate this tricky step in your entrepreneurial journey. If you’ve got the perfect name in mind or have narrowed it down to a few, that’s great news! In that case head on over to our post about 7 Steps you should take once you’ve gotten this far. Talk to you soon.

To the success of your business,


Keep up with Yasmine on social media! @startuplawyerlady

This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice or if you would like to schedule a call with our office in order to best protect yourself & your business, you can do so here.

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