Law Sections

Naming Your Business

How to Successfully Manage and Minimize Risk

Michael Gove

Michael Gove

Choosing a business name that will identify your company’s products and services can be an important factor in your ultimate success. A great name is the first step in creating a great brand: it should be memorable and create appropriate mental pictures when heard.

But, while choosing a business name may seem easy, this assignment will require some research to ensure it does not lead to what could be costly problems later on.

If you already have an established sole proprietorship and are incorporating, your already-existing good name may lead you to conclude that you should just add ‘Inc.’  However, if you are starting from scratch, naming your business can be more complicated.

Start by brainstorming a list of potential business names. Think about related words or phrases and experiment with combinations of the words you have jotted down. Throw out those that just do not fit, prioritize those remaining, and review those with someone who can provide objective input.

In addition to the creativity involved in choosing a business name, though, there are three main considerations to keep in mind.


Is Your Proposed Name Available?

The secretary of state has records of all active corporations, limited-liability companies, and limited partnerships. Remember, most states do not recognize differences from the use of the word ‘the’ nor in identifiers such as Inc., Co., or Ltd. This means that, if there is already a corporation named Pet Shoppe Inc., you will be prevented from using names such as The Pet Shoppe Inc., The Pet Shoppe Co., or The Pet Shoppe Ltd.


Will the Proposed Name Be Eligible for Trademark Protection?

Obtaining trademark protection helps to prevent another business from using a name that is likely to be confused with yours, which allows consumers to identify your product or service with you and the branding of your business. Conversely, you will want to confirm that you are not infringing on another corporation’s trademark. Receiving a cease-and-desist letter, or being sued for trademark infringement months after you open for business, can be a significant setback.


Is the Proposed Name Available as a Web Domain?

In this day and age, just about every business includes a Web site as part of their business advertising, and you should check to see if your proposed name is available as a domain.

While there is no magic formula, distinctive business names are clever and memorable and, when researched and protected correctly, will be there to remain consistent for years, which will help build trust, goodwill, and loyalty between you and your customers.


Michael S. Gove is an associate with the Springfield-based law firm Cooley, Shrair P.C. He focuses his practice on assisting clients in the areas of corporate/business, banking, and bankruptcy law; (413) 735-8037; [email protected]

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