what's in a business name

What’s In a Name?


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This famous line from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, calls into question the nature of names, pointing out that they are merely man-made conventions of the “thing” upon which they represent. Clearly, Shakespeare did not consider business names during the writing of this play. Business names are central to the success of any endeavor. They have both brand value and legal consequences. So, what’s in a business name?

Understanding Business Names

When most people start a business, they are usually bombarded with information. Priorities include opening bank accounts, figuring out record keeping processes, managing taxes, deciding whether to form a LLC or partnership, weighing the value of renting or buying a space, choosing insurance, and so on. There is no doubt that these considerations are practical and necessary; however, some of the most important aspects of crafting a successful business are overlooked during these exciting times.

A company name delivers a big message to the world – it is a way customers identify not only what service or product you offer, but also the culture that you create. Business names conjure up emotions and images in clients’ minds about what you do. Abstract names are unique, providing the creator the opportunity to develop an image of what the business does to accompany the name. The name “Google” certainly stands out as an abstract name. It catches the eyes and ears of most people, and creates the feeling of user-friendliness in a consumer’s mind. Importantly, it took time to develop the recognition between the name and the services offered. In contrast, informative names are more direct and they usually tell the customer what the business is all about. “Nick’s Art Supply” is fairly informative – it articulates the fact that the company is in the art supply business, and it requires less work to build a correlation between the name and what the business does. Regardless of what you choose, keep in mind the advantages and disadvantages between abstract and informative names.

When narrowing down the possible names you like, there are a few factors that can affect your choices. If you plan to incorporate your business, check with the County Clerk and/or the Secretary of State in your area to see if the name you selected is free or already in use. Another consideration when deciding on a name is whether an internet domain name exists for the domain you would like. You can check various websites, including godaddy.com to see if your business domain name is still available.

Aside from ensuring your name is unique, as a business owner, you should trademark your name. A trademark is a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product. Infringing on a trademark is no fun for any business owner; therefore, it is important to conduct a search on the U.S. Patent & Trade Office’s database to ensure no other name similar to, or exactly like yours, is trademarked. Applying for a trademark can legally protect your business name and brand should another party try to exploit your successes in the future. Applying for a trademark can be done at any point before or after you begin using your name.

Developing a business name is certainly more than a walk in the park. Working with an experienced attorney to develop a comprehensive strategy for your business will ensure your business name is intelligently-crafted and that your hard work is protected for years to come.