Name Game – 3 Things You Need to Know When Naming Your Startup
Naming your Startup can be quite a challenge. The following is an actual client situation that we recently faced while helping a new tech Startup.
This particular Startup had found its perfect name. The company name worked well for its business model and its web presence. But when asked if they wanted to reserve the name prior to Incorporation, the Founders decided not to reserve it in order to save some money. Bad decision.
The Founders of the Startup did not see eye to eye on some important startup issues, resulting in weeks of delay. When they finally were ready to file the Incorporation paperwork, the desired company name no longer was available because another Startup had stepped in to secure the name.
Many early-stage Startups are focused on developing products, seeking funding, building the team, etc. – as they should be. But don’t forget about your company name, especially if the name is important to your Startup and its future business model.
When starting your company, pay attention to the following three key points relating to your company name:
1. Not Only Check But Reserve
First, check to see if the desired corporate name is available in the state of Incorporation and, in the state where you plan to conduct business (if those two states are different). For example, if you incorporate your company in Delaware, then you will need to check with the Delaware Secretary of State to make sure that your desired company name is available there as a corporate name. Similarly, if you need to qualify as a foreign corporation in another state, such as California where your main office will be located, then you will need to make sure that the company name also is available for use as a corporate name in California.
Typically, the state officials will check to see if there is another corporate name already in use, which is the same or confusingly similar to the name that you want to use – but it is recommended to search similar names and combinations that could be out there. Keep in mind the slightest word can make or break the company name.
Next, reserve the name! Avoid any surprises or headaches and make the process simple for you and your startup. Also, renew the name reservation if you face delays during the Incorporation process.
2. Protect Your Company’s Social Media Identity
Corporate name availability is not enough. The availability of your business name as a corporate name is the first step in the process. What about using the name as a web domain name? Can you reserve it for use on the Internet? How about social media? Is the name available on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.? Is someone else using your company name (or a close variation) on the social media platforms that are important to your business? These issues alone may cause you to go back to the drawing board to rethink the name of your company.
The final name issue (and this is a big one) is to check whether there are any Trademark issues relating to your proposed business name. Although you can do some Google searches and even look at the U.S patent and trademark office website, that may not be enough. If a specific name is critical to your business and its identity, then you should talk with an experienced Trademark attorney who can give you the lowdown on how the name is used and what rights are available to your company, including Trademark registration. Keep in mind that you can register a Trademark at the state level as well as at the federal level.
If your company is focused on consumer products, retail or more immediate sales and marketing activities, then you should invest additional time and money on the front end, in order to make sure that your company name is available, protected and ready for business. Do not make the same mistake as the Startup mentioned above; otherwise, you may waste time and money as you reboot your company and search for a new name.
Which of the three above issues has interfered with your company’s progress? And how did you resolve the issue to keep your company on track?