Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” When it comes to starting a business, everything. Rather than waxing poetic, let’s get right to the point: understanding trademark law enough to choose a legally protectable name for your business is critical. Here are 3 reasons why:
Money. Time. Energy. You risk wasting these precious resources if you don’t invest some effort upfront to make an informed decision when choosing your business name. How so?
People can’t buy what they can’t find or don’t know about.
If you choose a name that’s not very distinctive, people may not be able to tell your business apart from another business that has a similar name, resulting in lost sales and money wasted on producing marketing materials like a fancy website and advertising.
You could get sued and lose certain rights to your company.
If your business name is confusingly similar to another’s, you may be illegally infringing on another business’ name which could get you sued. It could also result in a court deciding you don’t have permission to use the company name you sunk all that money into.
Your business name may not be legally protected.
If your business name could be categorized as generic or descriptive, it likely won’t be legally protectable under trademark law.
You could be leaving money on the table.
Not to mention that if you ever decide to sell your company, a strong trademark could be one of the most valuable assets you have, and a profitable bargaining chip in your pocket when negotiating the deal.
So how do you avoid wasting time, money and energy? As mentioned above, invest them in learning about trademark law now, rather than later. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has free online resources to jumpstart your learning about trademark basics, including a video series called the Trademark Information Network (TMIN). The TMIN provides tips and best practices on a variety of topics, including how to search the USPTO’s online database for other trademarks, so you can see what’s already being used by other people or companies.
The videos range from 5 minutes to 40 minutes, and heads up, they have a tongue-in-cheek production that is meant to be funny, but they are well worth the time to gain a fundamental understanding of trademark law, and how it relates to building a strong, protected business. After all, you want to make sure your trademark not only makes a great first impression, but also a lasting impression with customers.