What's in name: Business name, brand name, domain name for a startup

Business name
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An important question that every entrepreneur faces in the early days of his startup is, what will be the name of his startup. Sometimes, it's just chosen casually and sometimes they would think a lot before choosing one. In both cases, the couple of factors that dominate the search of a good name are: it should be catchy and it should be relevant.

But there are some other important aspects of choosing the right name for a startup, which are generally ignored. For example, there could be some legal implications of the name you choose and also there are some good practices you can follow. Let's have a look at them.

Business name or brand name or domain name

The business name, the brand name and the domain name are three different things. They could be the same, but it's important to understand the difference and choose wisely. The business name is normally the name of the company and chosen at the time of incorporation. The brand name is normally the name of the product or the service that you want to offer to the consumers.

The domain name is going to be the name of a website, so it might be the same as the product name or the business name, depending upon the purpose of that particular website. You can choose a different domain name dedicated to each of the products or business line you choose.

It is strongly advisable to keep both business name and brand name different for a new business or a startup as during buying or selling of business or a brand; this can avoid any confusion and conflict. In addition, having one or more different brand names adds to the brand equity of the business or the startup.

So, if we map all this information to a small startup, an entrepreneur would need two names, one for the company, even if it's not yet incorporated; the second one for the product or brand. Although there are various factors to be considered before selecting these names, the most crucial one is to ensure that the name is legally available. The problem is more prominent in case of the domain name.

Choosing a Domain Name

The most common step to begin with name search is to determine the availability of corresponding domain name. However, in case the primary domain name extension (e.g. a '.com' domain) is already booked by someone else, it is strongly advisable to change the name with a view to avoid trademark infringement and related legal issues.

However there could be some situation where you must go with the secondary domain name extension (e.g. '.in') when the primary one is not available. In that case, if it's clearly foreseen that there are no possible legal issues that may arise in future; alternate domain name extensions can also be considered.

Protection of Business Names & Brand Names

If you have just started out and trying to build your product or service, you need not worry about legally protecting your business names, brand names etc. as you still have to build them. But something that should be definitely done as the first step is to block all the possible social media URLs (FB and Google+), Twitter handles etc. for your brand name or domain name.

Don't wait till you launch or start your marketing, because it might be a good period of few months and you might lose some of these names, URLs etc. to someone else.

And if you have started getting some traction and particularly if it's growing rapidly, it's high time you started thinking about trademarks and all. Generally, trademark law requires following basic criteria for any name to be qualified as a registered trademark:
1. Novelty: The selected name should be novel.
2. No-conflicts: The name should not be same as compared to existing names and / or trademarks.

It is strongly advisable to legally protect business names, brand names, logos and taglines by way of trademarks. These are not as complicated processes as they sound, few easy steps taken at the right time might save an entrepreneur a lot of hassle during the later stage of the business.

Rahul Dev is a patent and trademark attorney and international technology business lawyer. He is a recognized industry expert in Intellectual Property, Patent Strategy & Technology Consulting. He is an active blogger & his views have been published by International Publications, Economic Times, Law Journals, Tech Magazines, Digital News Networks. Read more about him here.

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