Choosing a name for your business might be one of the most important decisions you make early on. Your business name should be both memorable and indicative of the services you will offer customers.
When naming your business, there are several issues that you’ll want to keep in mind. To pick the right name the first time, ask yourself these four questions before making a final decision:
• Is the name available?
• Will your business be a corporation, LLC, or limited partnership?
• Will the name require trademark protection?
• Is a similar name available for your website domain?
Read on for more details and to learn when to hire an experienced business attorney.
What’s in a name?
To find out if your business name is available, you will first need to conduct a name and trademark search. If someone else is already using your name to market a similar service or product, you’ll have to explore other options. Even a similar name can be a problem. For example, if you want to name your bakery Chubby Wife Cookies, but there is already a Chunky Wife Cookies, you run the risk of being confused with another business. This can be even more problematic if another business with a similar name has a tarnished reputation. An experienced attorney can help you perform a name and trademark search of fictitious and assumed business names.
What kind of business are you naming?
The structure of your business is also important to consider. If your business is a sole proprietorship or partnership, you can either choose a business name or use a fictitious one, also knows as a dba or "doing business as." Depending on your municipality, you may be required to register your dba or fictitious name.
When it comes to corporations, LLCs, and limited partnerships, your chosen name cannot be the same or very similar to that of another corporation, LLC, or limited partnership in the same state.
What about trademark protection?
When choosing your business name, it is a good idea to choose a name that is likely to receive trademark protection. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that markets a product or service. Obtaining trademark protection means that other businesses cannot use the same or similar trademarks in their marketing. Registering your name as a trademark is not required, but it is highly recommended.
Consider domain name availability
Keeping your online branding consistent with the rest of your business is crucial to your success. Is there an available domain name that works with your chosen business name? Let’s say you want to name your business Vermont Auto Body Pros. During a domain search, you discover that Green Mountain Auto Body Pros (another shop in your state) has a website domain of vermontautobodypros.com. As frustrating as this might be, it would be wise to choose another business name to avoid confusion.
When starting a business, choosing the name is one of the most important decisions you will make. Having to change your name a year or two into building your business can have serious consequences. Consider hiring an experienced business attorney to help you through the process.