How to name your company
Trademark Enthusiast, Attorney, Teacher
Naming your business is like writing a hit song. Bad stuff is obvious and good stuff is elusive.
Buying a domain name does not mean that you will be able to register it.
Do not forget fun and whimsy when naming your company!
Lesson: Trademarks with Ed Timberlake
Step #4 Naming: How to name your company
People, there are professionals out in the world who do naming at a very serious level, mostly for bigger corporations, very high paid consultants who will come in and talk to you about naming. Every one of them that I've spoken to says, "Yes, to come up with a name for just a normal kind of business, you've got to go through a thousand options before you will typically land on the right thing." That's hard. I'm extremely sympathetic to just how hard it is to come up with a name because it's an impossible task of, it's got to be legally sound, it has to be some place where there aren't already 20 people, it has to fit your business. So, it's just very, very difficult.
I sometimes tell people it's a little bit like writing a hit record. Nobody really knows exactly how. You can say what's probably not going to work, but in terms of what is going to work, you’ve just got to keep trying and eventually something will hit.
Probably the biggest single factor I could mention in terms of coming up with a name that you want to go forward with using as a trademark is to not tie that to the domain name question necessarily, or at least not tie it to the domain name issue too early because there will be plenty of things that you can find available as domains that, one, just won’t work very well for your company as a trademark. But also the fact that you buy the domain and say, “Okay, this is ours,” has no bearing whatsoever on whether that's going to be a good trademark or whether you're going to be able to get that registered.
It's an uncomfortable conversation to have with somebody, to say, “You just spent whatever,” and particularly if you had to get the domain from somebody else who had it, “You just spent this money on this thing that you really want to identify with your company but now you found that you're never going to be able to get that registered because there are five other people already there.”
I think that when you're batting around ideas, it's never too early to bat around ideas and you can never have too many possibilities. Also, I think that some people get into a little bit of a frame of mind like, this is sort of a grown up process. “Our lawyer told us to do this so we've got to come up with all of these things,” and they come up with very similar sounding, sort of like they're trying to impress somebody in that field, kind of names. A lot of those names will already be taken.
I think part of the fun, part of what I would emphasize for a startup is look at it as a little bit more fun. Imagine you're not naming your company but you're naming a band. What would you name your band? Now, people will take that seriously. Okay, well, they're really going to get invested in that, and they're not going to try and like, “Well, what would my parents want me to name the band?" No, you're probably going to go off in your own area and it's a little more natural to think, “Okay, well, there's this other band out there like this. I don't want anybody to think we're like them because they're terrible,” so you're going to go way off.
I think to some of the energy, just remember that there can be this very good energy about, because it goes beyond just, "Well can we get this registered?" It really, I think, is a good process. Even if you end up never taking something to the Trademark Office to even asking them to register it. I think it is a good thing business-wise to think, "Who are we as a business? Who do we want to be as a business? Where do we want to go?" questions like that.