Choosing a Business Name

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Choosing a business name is an important step in the business planning process. Not only should you pick a name that reflects your brand identity, but you also need to ensure it is properly registered and protected for the long term. You should also give a thought to whether it’s web-ready. Is the domain name even available?

Here are some tips to help you pick, register, and protect your business name.

Factors to Consider When Naming Your Business

Many businesses start out as freelancers, solo operations, or partnerships. In these cases, it’s easy to fall back on your own name as your business name. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it does make it tougher to present a professional image and build brand awareness.

Here are some points to consider as you choose a name:

  • How will your name look? – On the web, as part of a logo, on social media.
  • What connotations does it evoke? – Is your name too corporate or not corporate enough? Does it reflect your business philosophy and culture? Does it appeal to your market?
  • Is it unique? – Pick a name that hasn’t been claimed by others, online or offline. A quick web search and domain name search (more on this below) will alert you to any existing use.

Check for Trademarks

Trademark infringement can carry a high cost for your business. Before you pick a name, use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s trademark search tool to see if a similar name, or variations of it, is trademarked.

Apply for Trademark Protection

A trademark protects words, names, symbols, and logos that distinguish goods and services. Your name is one of your most valuable business assets, so it’s worth protecting. You can file for a trademark for less than $300 at www.uspto.gov.

If You Intend to Incorporate

If you intend to incorporate or form an LLC, you’ll need to check with the Illinois Secretary of Statehttp://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/business_services/corp.html to check whether your intended business name has already been claimed and is in use. If you find a business operating under your proposed name, you may still be able to use it, provided your business and the existing business offer different goods/services or are located in different regions.

Pick a Name that is Web-Ready

In order to claim a website address or URL, your business name needs to be unique and available. It should also be rich in key words that reflect what your business does. To find out if your business name has been claimed online, do a simple web search to see if anyone is already using that name.

Next, check whether a domain name (or web address) is available. You can do this using the WHOIS database of domain names www.whois.net.  If it is available, be sure to claim it right away. This guide explains how to register a domain name.

Claim Your Social Media Identity

It’s a good idea to claim your social media name early in the naming process – even if you are not sure which sites you intend to use. A name for your Facebook page can be set up and changed, but you can only claim a vanity URL or custom URL once you’ve got 25 fans or “likes.” This custom URL name must be unique, or un-claimed.

Register Your New Business Name

Registering a business name is a confusing area for new business owners. What does it mean and what are you required to do?

Registering your business name involves a process known as registering a “Doing Business As (DBA)” name or trade name. This process shouldn’t be confused with incorporation and it doesn’t provide trademark protection. Registering your “Doing Business As” name is simply the process of letting your state government know that you are doing business as a name other than your personal name or the legal name of your partnership or corporation. If you are operating under your own name, then you can skip the process.

Read more about registering your business

More about registering your business name: http://www.sba.gov/content/how-name-business

Have additional questions about starting your business?  Contact the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Southern Illinois University for a confidential business consultation at no charge to you. Call (618) 536-2424 to set up an appointment.