Branding Speaker, Trainer, and Coach

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

naming

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 www.uspto.gov be your friend Click To Tweet

  1. Check out the Patent & Trademark Office – It’s worth investigating www.uspto.gov 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!

1 Comment
  1. Hello Liz, Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State. I am using the name Keystoner as my “common law” trademarked name for my business that sells cannabis related items. I’ve learned a lot about trademarks and think I know what needs to be done should someone infringe. I’ve been following the USPTO site and keeping an eye out for infringers. I’ve contacted a few people and after finding out that I was the first to use my name “in commerce” I politely let them know and send them a Cease and Desist letter and tell them it’s just a formality. Recently a couple filed with the Feds for my name to use for selling cannabis related products. They were denied. The Feds said it’s a common name for Pennsylvanians and it’s geographic.

    I would argue the commonality as the dictionary example they used was for local people in PA and not cannabis aficionados (aka pot heads). The people used a very simple text for their mark with the words Keystoner so people could not differentiate if it was Keystoner people (dictionary) or Keystoner potheads (new urban slang not that well known until this year).

    As for the geographical issue with trademarks, well, we have lots of Keystone named businesses. Keystone tires, Keystone Insurance, etc. How are they getting around the geographic issue?

    My business name is simply Keystoner. I also own Keystone 420. Do I need to make my business called Keystoner Shop to get around the geographic issue? Keystoner is the new slang for a PA pothead.

    Any suggestions you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

    I also own http://www.Keystone4.net

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