When you're first starting out, one of the most exciting parts (at least for me) is choosing the name you'll be working with. With the introduction of the internet, people are competing across the country as well as around the world, and finding a unique, memorable name is more important than ever. You also want to ensure you're not violating any trademarks (eek!). Here's how to find that perfect name.
- Make a list. It seems obvious, but this step is an important one. Make sure it's written or typed, not just in your memory. Number or arrange them by your name preference so you can check the ones you're attached to first.
- Check with the Trademark Office. Free trademark searches can be done here with the United States Government. If you live outside the states, check your government's website for more information on trademark searches. If your preferred name comes back with a trademark result, never fear! Inspect the entry more closely, and check to see the industry the trademark is effective in. If the name is trademarked for, say, medical supplies and you're making quilts, you're probably in the green. It's always good to come back to this page later to trademark your name. In the United States, you'll want a Utility Filing for a logo/logotype or drawing, or Design Filing for an invention or product design. It's not as expensive as people would expect - and the USPTO offers reduced filing fees for small entities (individuals and small businesses, which I'm sure the vast majority of you are!). Remember, you do not need to register with the USPTO to use the ™ symbol, but the ® symbol can not be used without a completed filing.
- Check with a Whois. A what? A Whois search engine is a program that lets you check various domain names to see if they're available. Check out the domains you'd consider getting - if your business has multiple words in its name, check it without spaces (likethis.com/net/org) and with dashes (like-this.com/net/org). Take a look at the domains that are registered with that name, if there are any. What's on their website? You don't want people confusing your business with another, so if your business is too similar, or if the other website could be considered offensive in any way, either change your prospective URL or move down the list and start testing another name.
- Check with Etsy. The easiest way to find out if another indie designer is using your name is to check Etsy. You can search by user name, and you can return more user names similar to yours that you might miss otherwise by typing in a keyword rather than the whole name. For example, if I were to start up business using Try This at Home as my business name and trythisathome as my Etsy name, I could opt to key in "home" and see what pops up. If nothing appears similar to what you're hoping for, you're golden.
- Check with State and Local government. Now that you've done all you can online, it's time to get out of the house and make sure nobody is operating in your city or state with the same name. After all, not everyone is operating online yet, and you wouldn't want to settle on a name and start producing business cards, packaging, and other promotional pieces only to find out later a mom and pop shop about 30 minutes away is preventing you from using that name when filing for a business license. All it takes is a quick trip to City Hall - clerks there should be able to do a search for you.
I hope this was informative and helpful. If you have any more questions, I'd be happy to help you in any way I can - just let me know. Happy Name Hunting!