Entrepreneurs and Innovators share at least one thing in common: the challenge of selecting a name for a new venture. In a digital world where seemingly every catchy word or phrased seems to be used by someone else, choosing an original, creative, valuable name for a new venture isn’t easy.
When clients consult us regarding a name for a new business, brand, or idea, we always encourage them to shortlist 5 names. Stay engaged in the name selection process until you have at least 5 names that you like to choose from. Why 5? Because if you select less than that, the odds of obtaining trademark clearance from your IP lawyer become greater; going back to the drawing board is inefficient and sometimes kills a founder’s morale. By selecting 5 or more names to throw in the hopper, we can be relatively certain that at least one will check out from a legal perspective.
During the name selection and clearance process, it is common (and understandable) for a client to become emotional about the name selected. If it’s a new business, however, my advice is usually not to proceed with a name that has any potential problems associated with it. For example, often times there may be similar names in different but potentially related fields. While our firm routinely argues for and against findings of likelihood of confusion on a daily basis (and are capable of doing so in most cases), it is never advisable to select a name which has an even 20% chance of infringing on another mark. Or, even if there’s only a 5% chance of infringing, but the third party is highly litigious, it is likely not advisable to proceed with the name. Why? Because no new company needs the headache of a trademark infringement litigation, even if the new company’s mark is ultimately found to be non-infringing. There are better way to spend venture dollars than on costly and time-consuming litigation.
Think of it this way: no matter how incredible, meaningful, and poignant your new name may be, a name for a new company is nearly worthless in the eyes of a consumer, because a consumer is not yet familiar with the brand. Of course, if you’re a mid-stage company who runs into a hiccup with your trademark, it might be worth it to pursue litigation in an effort to preserve the value built up over time in your mark. But, if your mark hasn’t been introduced to consumers yet, and there’s a possibility that a third party might have an issue with your use, in most cases it makes sense to select a new mark, or, if you’ve followed my recommendation, pick one of the other 4.