The 5 Essential Things to Do when Naming your Business or Brand
By Rina Sond, Partner specialising in Company Commercial and Intellectual Property
When thinking of a new name for your business or brand, there are a number of points to consider. You’re probably aware that you ought to do some research and check that the chosen name isn’t already being used by another business. However, some of these checks are not always obvious, and so I have set out below my top tips on the things that you cannot afford to miss.
- Check the company name is available. You can carry out a search at Companies House online easily to see if the proposed name is already taken as a company name. As long as it is available and doesn’t fall within the restrictions set out in company legislation, then it will be fine to register. Even if you intend to start a business as a sole trader or other structure, you may have plans to expand to a company in future, so the sooner you register the company name, the better to avoid missing out on the chosen name. However, do remember that if setting up a company, there are various directors duties to bear in mind, as well as annual filing requirements to abide by. Also, be aware that just because your company name is registered, this does not prevent someone else from setting up a similar company name.
- Check the name or brand is available as a trade mark. Again, you can usually carry out online searches of the relevant trade mark registry, depending on where you are based and the markets into which you wish to expand. You should carry out the searches and check that there are no identical or similar trade marks already registered. If there are, then you should either re-think the brand, or possibly take trade mark advice on the proposed mark. You should also ensure that the chosen name or brand is capable of being registered as a trade mark, as there are certain criteria to meet.
- Check the domain name is available. You can do an online ‘whois’ search through ICANN (the governing body for domain name management) to see whether the domain name that you want is available or already taken. Since GDPR, this type of search is less useful as it does not show the details of the owner any longer, but it can still show the Registrar details where the domain has been taken. You’ll need to contact the Registrar to ensure that the domain is available. You should make sure that the website for your new brand is easily identifiable and easy to find.
- Given the extensive use of social media marketing these days, check that the name is available in an easily recognisable format on the main social media platforms, including facebook, Instagram, twitter and Linkedin. There may be more specific and lesser known channels to consider too, depending on the nature of the goods or services that you’ll be selling (eg. pinterest, periscope, etc).
- Lastly, do a general Google search. Research what other businesses are already established and who might be using that name. This may not mean that you cannot use the name at all, but it can be useful to see whether there is a direct clash with another business. This could be an issue if, for example, the business is based on its geographical location and you discover that a business has the same or a similar name in close proximity.
However, it might not be an issue, if for example, a business with the same name operates in a country that you will never market to, or if they operate in relation to a completely different product or service. Whilst there can be certain issues when looking to use the same or a similar name as an established brand, it is possible for businesses with the same name to co-exist. For example, there are 3 brands registered to use the brand ‘Polo’ but in completely different areas – Volkswagen, the car manufacturer; Ralph Lauren, the fashion brand; and Rowntrees, the confectionery company, all use the Polo brand in different areas.
If you are faced with any possible issues or problem areas when you carry out the above searches, it is always best to take advice. If you proceed with the name and brand you have chosen, only to later discover that a similar or identical brand already exists, then you could face a stressful and costly process of having to re-brand. This is why it is wise to always do your homework at the outset of any new venture.
Should you need any further advice or guidance on any of the issues mentioned in this blog, then please contact Rina Sond.
Please note the contents of this blog are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.