I’m Gina Bongiovi. I’m a lawyer who works with startups and small businesses. In this video, I’m going to discuss how you choose a name for your business. While it may seem like a very easy thing to do, that you just choose your name, it’s actually not. You have to take a lot of things into consideration when you’re first naming your business, and a lot of those decisions depend on information that you probably don’t have, like your exit strategy. Even though it sounds a little strange to be talking about your exit strategy when you’re trying to start your business, it’s really important.
For example, if you plan on eventually taking your business national, you probably don’t want to have Las Vegas, Clark County, or Nevada in your name, because you want to be able to expand. Also, if you plan on selling your business down the road, you probably don’t want to use your name in the business, like Joe’s Mobile Detailing, or something like that. You want to not only keep your exit strategy in mind and make sure your name doesn’t restrict you from growing your business, but you also want to make sure, and this is very important, that nobody already has your name.
You can check on the US Patent and Trademark Office website, which is at http://USPTO.gov, and you can search for trademarks. You want to do a couple of different searches and different variations, because the Trademark Office won’t issue a trademark if the name you are using is confusingly similar to another name that’s already registered. You want to do some pretty liberal searches at the Trademark Office, but don’t stop there. You also want to Google your name and make sure there are no other businesses that are doing business under your name in the same market for the same category as what you are doing.
I have a couple of horror stories about this. I have one client who sunk a whole bunch of money into a product; he did labels, he did bottling, he did the whole thing. He got his product into Costco, which for a small family- owned business in Las Vegas, was a great deal. When he got his business into Costco, there was another company that had a very similar name for the exact same product that was already in the market, and was a ‘Goliath’ in a David and Goliath situation. My client, after receiving a cease and desist letter from the Goliath, had to make a decision of whether to try to fight, which they didn’t really have the resources to do, or to change the name of their company, which they had already sunk about $50,000 into naming the company, labeling it, graphic design, and all that kind of stuff. This is why this is an important decision to make in the beginning.
When you’re talking about trademarking and you want to file your trademark application, you have a choice of whether you want to protect the name or the name and the logo. If you really like your logo and you want it to standalone without really having to have the name, like the Nike ‘swoosh’, then you want to do a logo design. If you just do a name design, it gives you some flexibility on changing your logo down the road. If you do your name, you also have to choose a category that you want to protect the name in. You don’t just get to protect your name for all purposes under the sun.
A good example of this is Monster: You have Monster Cable, you have Monster Energy, you have Monster the job search. Every one of those companies is allowed to use the name Monster, but they’re all for different categories. You want to make sure that somebody isn’t using your name or something similar to it for the same category. Then once you figure all that out, then you can start your business.
Watch this directly on YouTube.