Starting a new business is really exciting. You are ready to take your ideas and create something new. Congratulations!
One of the very first things you need to do is secure your company name. This is the name that will represent you and your business. It will come to be synonymous with your goods or services in the minds of your customers. You will use it on your website, social media, business cards, marketing materials, your storefront, etc.
The number one issue I have seen with my entrepreneurial clients is having to change their company name because they find out someone else is already using it. Having to change the name of your business after you have already started your marketing (and maybe even sales) is costly and time-consuming. And it can be confusing for your customers.
Here’s how to efficiently invest some time upfront, so you choose and secure a company name that can stick:
Develop a short list of 3-5 possible names. Brainstorm 3-5 possibilities and rank them, starting with your favorite.
Do some searching. Type your candidate names into search engines like Google to see what turns up. Another useful place to search is the Secretary of State in your state, as well as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Delete any candidates that are already out there, and brainstorm new names if you have to.
Test your potential names with close friends and family. It can be useful to have people close to you take a look at your potential names and give you feedback. Be careful to only ask people you trust – I have had clients find out someone heard their name and “scooped” them by registering the name ahead of them. This is potentially illegal, but it would cost money to prove that.
Contact an attorney. A trademark attorney with experience in searching can help you make sure there are no third party uses out there that could cause a problem for you. Tell them what searching you have already done, and what you have found. The attorney can supplement your search with their own resources (I personally have subscriptions to specialized search tools) and advise you whether any there are any possible issues.
File early! Once you settle on a company name, start reserving that name right away.
For Minnesota: https://mblsportal.sos.state.mn.us/Business/Search
For Wisconsin: https://www.wdfi.org/_resources/indexed/site/corporations/dfi-corp-1.pdf
Even if you are not ready to open the doors for your new venture, you should consider how to best protect your company name. Taking these steps early will give you peace of mind about your company name - and will save you headaches in the future.
Karrie Weaver practices intellectual property, trademark, patent, and trade secret law.