The first step in our Business Lifecycle will be choosing a name for your business. Depending upon what line of business you are in the name can be something very descriptive like what you do, or the name could actually be your personal name. For example, my law firm is just my name, Andrew M. Ayers, P.C. However, some people choose to add things like “estate planning law firm” after their name. So in that case, I could be the Ayers Estate Planning Law Firm or the Ayers Business Law Firm.

Naming Your Business

So it's good practice to make sure you have more than one name as a possibility for your business. As you can imagine, there are many businesses out there, and many names that may have already been claimed. I suggest at least 3 possible names for your business before you create your business.

One of the first issues you may deal with is what's called intellectual property issues, copyrights and trademarks. If you're looking at using a descriptive term for your business. Let's say “The Best Truck Company in Springfield,” you may need to check to see if somebody has already claimed that name.

So, the first place you want to check is with your state. Usually your state has a Department of State Corporations Division that will maintain a list of all active and inactive companies. Check through that list to make sure that the name you're looking for is available. If your state also has a trademark office, you'll want to check with them to see if the name you have chosen has already been taken for trademark purposes.

Once you've checked with your state, the next step is to check with the federal government. The federal government has an office called the United States Patent and Trademark Office (www.uspto.gov). The site is much easier to navigate than it was about 20 years ago when I started practicing law. Now, you can run a Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) search and put in your proposed name and your trademarks and see if anybody has already claimed them. This is important because although your business may be local. If you're going to have a website, then it will show up with international reach, and you'll want to make sure you're not infringing on somebody else's trademark or copyright.

If you've created a logo for your business, you'll also want to go through the process of registering that logo with the USPTO. It is an easy process, one that I've found my clients can do on their own. However, if you would like the assistance of an attorney, there are plenty of us out there who would be more than happy to help you get that trademark registered.

Once you’ve checked the name for any intellectual property issues, you will need to see if you have any licensing issues with your name. If you are using a name that has been similar to somebody else's name, you actually may be able to license it. For example, think back to years ago to Apple Records for the Beatles, and then think today, 50 years later, where we think of Apple as it relates to computers and technology. When you have two companies who use the same or similar names, however are in very different fields, you can create what's called a licensing deal so that your use of the name will not be considered a copyright or trademark infringement. Especially if you're using a name or a term that you know somebody else is using, and you want to avoid ending up in a lawsuit, you'll want to check and see if a licensing agreement is good for your company.

Marketing and Your Name

The other issues to consider when choosing your name is from a marketing standpoint. You want to first make sure it looks good on a logo. If you have a really long name, it may be hard to fit onto a logo, and more importantly, it may be hard to fit onto a website.

As part of choosing your name, you'll also want to go an internet registry site and make sure the domain you're looking for is available. You'll want to check for a “.com” name for sure and then also see if there are other variants that are available. If they are, I suggest you snap them up as soon as possible. And you can then work with your technology team to get them updated with your website and get everything forwarded to website.

Finally, with your name, another suggestion I have is make sure it is easy to pronounce. A short, simple, easy to pronounce name (think Amazon, Apple, Google, Intel) is easy to work with. When you have longer names like “The Best Darn Trucking Company in East Spokane Washington of the United States,” while it may be unique, it may be hard to pronounce, and even harder to put onto a domain name.

Next Steps

If you're ready to take that first step towards starting a business, let's set up a Legal Strategy Session to help you get things started. And for more information on the entire process, you can download the Business Lifecycle Report for more information.