Branding Speaker, Trainer, and Coach

8 Great Ways to Name Better…and Avoid Getting Sued!*


Wowza! The media is abuzz with major trademark infringement suits pending over famous brands:

  • Who owns the rights to the word Zero? Is it Coke?
  • Who will prevail over the name Hana? Is it Hana Financial or Hana Bank?
  • And, did Wolfgang Puck steal the trademark of The Kitchen from Kimbal Musk?

These cases are complex…and expensive! If you’re a small business owner trying to stay out of legal hot water, here’s key naming advice:

Just because the #domain is avail, don’t assume #trademark is Click To Tweet

  1. Look Beyond the Domain – Many entrepreneurs erroneously assume that just because the domain is available, that the name is free and clear. WRONG! Trademark law and domain names are 2 different spheres with 2 different rules.
  2. Try Non-Dictionary Words – Kleenex, Vonage, and Verizon are all made up words (neologisms) that are considered “whimsical” by the US Patent & Trademark Office meaning they more easily stand up to inspection and protection.

In #naming, let be your friend Click To Tweet

  1. Check out the Patent & Trademark Office – It’s worth investigating to see if the name you want is already registered. NOTE: this database is not in real time and is not a substitute for a lengthy state search, but it at least lets you know if your name is already in use.
  2. Avoid Using Your Own Name – Whenever I see Jane Doe & Associates, I assume there aren’t any associates! Further, using your own name limits your ability to sell your business and robs you of your own ability to use your name for a later business. Vidal Sassoon, Wally Amos, and Joseph Abboud have all tried to get back the rights to their own brand names!
  3. Complicated Brand Names are Complicated – For every successful Chipotle or Haagen Dazs, there’s a dozen dead brand names buried at the altar of good intentions. Remember: easier is better.
  4. Be Wary of Similar Names – Jiffy Lube, Jiffy Popcorn, Jiffy Mix, and Jif all co-exist, but I wouldn’t recommend entering into this “jiffy” category.
  5. Try One Name Brands – If the brand is “YOU,” perhaps you can become the next Adele, Beyoncé, Bono, Seal or Cher.

Can you become a 1-name #brand? Click To Tweet

  1. Embrace Nicknames – Sometimes a great nickname makes a unique and memorable brand name. Tune in sometime to listen how Eminem, Ice Cube or Lil Buck came into being.

Need a name for a new company or division? Contact me or learn more about our services:

What’s your cool name or naming dilemma? Let me know below.

*NOTE: I’m not an attorney (yeah!) and I’m not dispensing legal advice. I always recommend running any proposed name by your trademark counsel before proceeding. Ask me if you need a referral!

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