Name selection and protection for businesses, brands, services and products
20 Nov 2013
In the online marketplace, selecting a business, brand, product or service name that is available and protectable, as well as memorable and easy to spell, is a difficult challenge. We outline here a new strategy for doing so, as well as provide some essential online checks and tools that you will need to achieve this creative and logistical task.
When you develop a new name, test it as follows:
1. Check business name availability.
2. Check domain name availability.
3. Check trademark availability.
4. Perform a Google search on the name.
5. Check that your name conforms to common sense naming rules.
Iterate through 1 to 5 until you have a unique and protectable name!
Once registered, don't forget to protect your new name on social media channels.
1. Australian business name availability
Start here: http://www.asic.gov.au/
From the page above, see the search function on the right to actually search ASIC registers for your name idea. Even if you are selecting a product or service name, you want to avoid using a name already in use by another business.
2. Domain Name Selection
You can search on one of the many registrars such as www.melbourneit.com.au or www.netregistry.com.au.
Check if your domain name is available. If you are planning on going international, you face the very difficult task of finding an available .com domain name, as well as other important domains like .com.au, .co.uk, .co.nz, .asia, .net, .net.au, .ch, as well as any other country you intend to operate in.
A list of country domains can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Internet_top-level_domains.
Registration in each country has a different set of rules, so ensure you make the necessary investigation as to whether you can register. Often you may need a business entity in the country to register (however not for a .com).
With a .com, you are in an ideal situation, as the .com is typically viewed as the international domain, where you can specify other countries using sub-domains like au.publishmyweb.com for Australia and nz.publishmyweb.com for New Zealand. This approach can save you a lot of money and time on a large number of country by country registrations.
Don't forget to also consider registering common mis-spellings, and hyphenated versions. You don't want someone cybersquatting on a similar domain name to you!
Also be aware there are hundreds of new domain extensions (called gTLDs) on the way, such as .shop, .bank or .google. It remains to be seen if these domains dilute the value of a .com. For a status update on the new gTLDs, you can check here: http://newgtlds.icann.org
If the domain name you want is taken, but does not seem to be in use, contact a professional to do further checks for you in an attempt to find the owner. Often it is worth making an offer for your all important .com! One way to check who the domain name owner is via a whois lookup, available for free from here: http://www.dnsstuff.com Scroll down to the section on whois lookup and enter your domain. Sometimes whois will reveal the owner (assuming they have not paid to have their name hidden). It is also worth checking out domain auction websites like sedo.com.
Key Take Away - If you plan to go international, you need a .com. If .com is unavailable, better to choose a different name or attempt to buy the domain.
3. Trademark Search
Search the IP Australia database for trademarks here:
Once at the page, simply click on “enter as guest”.
If you are not familiar with trademarks, read up on them here:
If you plan to register a trademark, it is essential you get the advice of a licensed trademark attorney. However, searching the database is useful at this stage to identify unavailable names.
Search the USA trademark database here:
4. Search Google
You never know what may come up under your new name. Best to check, as your name may be used as a common or generic product or service name, but not be registered elsewhere. You want to make it easy for people find you in Google, as you don't want to have to compete against common names that may have a trading history.
5. Naming Rules
Often naming rules are subjective and challenge each other. As such, you need to develop your own naming philosophy. Here are some ideas to consider.
Short and catchy is best.
Use words people can already spell, combinations of English words are best. This is why we love our web design business name, “publish my web” and also “ideabank”.
If you are ok with a made up word for your name, you are at an advantage in some respects as the name will be easy to register, and be easy to rank in google. flickr and squidoo are good examples. If you want to make up a new word as your name, try this tool here:http://wordoid.com.
http://www.nameboy.com - a useful service for finding available domain names that have a primary and/or secondary word that you select.
Don't intentionally mis-spell words. It makes you hard to find and people will never get your name right!
Ideally your name will explain what you do, or at least suggest your category or industry.
A good name is easily matched to a logo or image that supports your business vision and unique positioning.
Can your name be pronounced easily? Can someone that has never heard of it say it without prompting?
Does the name jump out and stand out from your competitors?
If you are stuck on a word, try the list of all English words:
English words by number of letters: http://www.scrabble.org.au/words
Ordered by letters and length: http://www.wordbyletter.com/words_by_length.php
After you have selected your new name and gone through the process to register it, you need to ensure you protect your name on social media platforms.
For example forPublish My Web, we have setup accounts and registered vanity URLs / vanity names on skype, google, facebook, youtube, twitter, tumblr, linkedin (create company pages), wordpress, pinterest, blogger, slideshare, soundcloud, flickr, as well as many others. So as an example, you can find us at:twitter.com/publishmyweb
If you are serious about social media channels and protecting your social media presence, this is time well spent, even if you don't intend to use the given social media channel in the short term. The goal is to protect your brand and give your business maximum options in the future, as different social media platforms come to prominence. For example, the recent rise of pinterest has been nothing short ofspectacular, with major brands now using this platform extensively.
The best approach in registering new social media accounts is to use a business email address, rather than an existing personal account. Once registered on the platform, you then need to go through the specific process on that site to create a vanity address (URL), for example a facebook fan page, linkedin company page, youtube channel.
Selecting a great new name can be a challenging and time-consuming task! Often many of your best ideas will be eliminated quickly once you iterate through the points 1 to 5 above. However, it is worth the effort to persevere given thatyour name will be the centre-piece of your brand; a business asset that will enhance the profitability and saleability of your business. Happy name hunting!
Read more of our articles.