When you’re about to start a new business, you would be wise to give your new entity’s name more than just a lot of thought.

As an entrepreneur, of course you want a distinctive name to set your new business apart from the crowd.  You probably realize the importance of building your business and growing your brand by selecting a name – and perhaps a logo – which represents your company’s product line, style, or type of business.  But you must consider the “marketplace” in which your business will operate.  There are myriads of companies and brands in existence and exponentially more names on the Internet, since many companies use “alternate” or “doing business as” names and have multiple domain names linked to their websites.

If your company’s name, no matter how unusual, infringes another company’s trademark, you could face a lawsuit.  Certainly that is not an ideal way to get off the ground!  Since your new business will likely have a web presence, the physical location of your business becomes less important.  The test typically used by courts is whether there is a likelihood of confusion of the two names in the marketplace.  The larger the marketplace you enter, the greater the chance that your company name or logo might infringe someone else’s protected name or logo (and vice versa).

Here are a few tips to keep you on the path to success:

  • Think of several potential names for your new company before spending serious time or money on your entity.
  • Google those potential names to see if others — regardless of location – are using those names or other names which are similarly spelled or sound like them.
  • Check the Secretary of State website of the state in which you plan to form your entity to see if those or similar names have been filed.
  • Check the United States Patent and Trademark Office website to see if those or similar names are registered or pending registration.
  • Verify that your names could be registered as domain names and in social media.
  • Obtain a report from a nationally-known trademark search firm to identify potential conflicts with other protected or unprotected names.
  • Once all of the foregoing steps have been completed, conduct a “cost-benefit risk analysis” when a name or logo cannot be used risk-free.

For an entrepreneur with sky-high optimism and unlimited potential, these are critical first steps in the launch of your successful start-up.