Skimping on Name Game Spells Trouble for Small Biz

Biz cards nameTodd Coats, chief creative officer for Capstrat, a marketing and public relations agency in Raleigh, N.C., said small-business owners should not shortchange the process of coming up with an effective and appropriate moniker.

There are billions of business names already in existence, Coats said, so owners should start by listing hundreds of options.

?This is a quantity game, more than anything else in the beginning,? Coats said. Coats will generate names by mashing up words, trying different variations, prefixes and suffixes.

Owners should consider their intended audience, Coats said, and what they will tolerate.

?Knowing the tolerance of how descriptive it needs to be, and how much leeway you have in the presentation of that will help to determine the vastness of the long list that you are creating,? he said.

A younger audience may be more willing to accept irreverent names, Coats said. But with some products or services, such as hotels, descriptive titles or established brands might be more effective.

Marketing budget is also a consideration, as obscure or made-up names might require a campaign to give it meaning, Coats said.

Small-business owners can narrow their list by asking themselves which names are the most memorable and tell the story of their brand.

?If you sing them out, do they roll off of your tongue, or do they clang around in your mouth?? Coats said.

Owners should search the Internet for similar names and negative connotations, and explore registered names on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website.

Once small-business owners identify a viable name, they should consider filing an application for a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, said Justin Nifong, a patent and intellectual property attorney and managing partner with NK Patent Law in Durham, N.C.

A trademark includes names or symbols used to distinguish the source of goods and services. Typically, a trademark is the name of a business, but logos and slogans also qualify. For example, Nike registered its swoosh, and Chick-fil-A registered ?Eat mor chikin.?

Federal registration isn?t mandatory and requires a current or future intention for interstate commerce, but has several advantages over common law trademark registration or registration with the state, Nifong said. Benefits of federal registration include an owner?s claim to a mark in a national database, which could deter other businesses from using it, and a legal presumption of ownership in all U.S. states and territories.

Common law trademark rights can be attached to an in-use business name, but the protection is limited to geographic areas in which the company is operating, Nifong said.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will allow companies to register similar marks if their services are clearly different, Nifong said. Delta, for example, is a brand associated with both an airline and bath and kitchen faucets. But the federal application process seeks to prevent similar products or services from having brands with similar names that could confuse the consumer.

?Check trademarks by using the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office?s trademark search tool to look for business with similar names.

?Check available domains names and claim a domain online.

Source: MCT Information Services