For the London Free Press – October 21, 2013 – Read this at LFPress.com
The name you choose for your business or your products is an important and lasting decision that can be critical to the overall identity and image of your business.
But coming up with a good business, brand, or product name is not always easy. Too often people have a name in mind that they are invested in either financially or emotionally, but the name is not wise from a legal perspective. It is best to get legal advice and do some searching.
A good brand or trademark is memorable, not descriptive. Think of “Apple” or “Ford”, for example. It is not uncommon for businesses to think of names that describe their products or services, which is a mistake. That does not help to set the product apart from the competition. Indeed, the trademarks act does not allow the registration of a trademark that is clearly descriptive of the product or its place of origin. For example, if you open an ice-cream store, you can’t protect the name “Cold Ice Cream”.
To obtain a corporate name, one only has to do a search of Canadian business names. But if a business wants to have an international or online presence, it is a good idea to search beyond the legal minimum. At the very least do a Google search, and a trademark registry search in countries where customers may be.
Also look at what domain names are available. Most businesses should have a web presence. While a domain name does not have to be the exact business or product name, it should be something intuitive for customers to try. And you don’t want your exact business name to be taken by a competitor, or be used in some way that might embarrass you.
It doesn’t hurt to see if the desired name is available as social media IDs. Similar to a domain name, a business’s Twitter or Facebook name does not have to be its exact name, but there should be a logical connection. You do not want your exact name to already be in use by a competitor.
Once you find a business or product name that works, it is worthwhile taking steps to protect it. Obtain domain names and social media ID’s immediately, even if you may not intend to use them right away. They are cheap and easy to get.
Also consider whether it is worthwhile registering the business or product name as a trademark in Canada, or other countries. If the name is an important marketing asset, it is worth the modest cost to register it as a trademark. While trademarks can be registered at any time, the risk in delaying is that someone else might register it first. While it may be possible to wrestle it back depending on the circumstances, it is far easier and cheaper to simply do it first.