If you’ve started a business, developed a new brand, or thought about re-branding, you know finding the perfect name takes time and energy. As entrepreneurs we obsess over this because it really does set the foundation for the brand. Without a solid foundation things start to hit the fan fast.

To get you on the right path with your new business, brand or product line, here are a few guidelines for choosing the right name and making sure it’s legally yours to use:

1. Ask yourself what’s the first thing you want a customer to think about your business?

The answer should set the tone for the rest of your identity, whether playful, authoritative, edgy, corporate, friendly, hip, fun, etc.

2. Descriptive names tend to work better.

For example, your audience will know right away what ‘Track Jeans’ is as opposed to just “Track.” But be careful not to get too specific so you don’t pigeon hole your brand if you later decide to expand your offering.

3. Keep it simple.

Powerful names are easy to pronounce, spell and remember. You want word of mouth referrals, right? To spread the word about how fantastic your brand is, customers have to be able to remember your name.

4. Be careful about language and cultural pitfalls

The best way to steer clear of creating an embarrassing situation with your brand name is to test it on your target audience. They may see something you don’t.

5. Check if your name is available to use.

You should do that with a business name search online for the state in which you’re going to be doing business. At this point you’d be smart to do a comprehensive trademark search called a trademark clearance, checking among other things whether your name is available in all 50 states. This also let’s you see if anyone has registered for, received or abandoned a trademark for your desired name.

6. Incorporate and register your name.

Incorporating your business or forming an LLC is important for for protecting your personal assets and for tax purposes. Forming a legal entity will also automatically register your business name in whatever state you’ve incorporated in. That means that nobody else can use the name in your state as a corporation or an LLC.

7. Register the trademark with the USPTO.

Incorporating, while extremely important, won’t stop another business from using your name in any of the other 49 states (and they can go as far as using the name in your own state by using a DBA/fictitious name filing). If you are serious about protecting your brand and making sure no one else can use your business name, you’ll need to file for a federal trademark. Make sure to ask your attorney about doing a trademark clearance first. A clearance can help ensure you can register your name as a trademark and keep it yours for many years to come. The cost of a clearance is well worth it in the long run.

Final Thoughts.

Choosing a name can be one of the most exciting and important things you do for your business. Take your time, make the necessary financial investment, and make sure you talk to an attorney about these steps and all the other important things you need to set up your business or new offering properly and ensure your success.

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