Step 1 – Do a basic trademark search. Go to the US Gov. Trademark website and do a basic word search. (To get to the TESS system go to the Trademark home page at http://www.uspto.gov/trademark then click on the “TESS” link and then click on “Basic Word Search) It’s easy to do – just type your name in and see what comes up. I’m not a trademark lawyer but this is what I know – you will see the results as “live” or “dead” (or it will show “no results” for the term – which is good!). You can click on the results to get more details and see the underlying records. In this screenshot I searched “healthbox” and came up with four live records – if you click on the first one you will see the underlying mark and registration issue. This term is registered by UnderArmour – so it is likely that if you choose to use the term you will be hearing from their lawyers.
It’s important to remember that with copyright and trademark there is no government agency that is going to pursue infringement for you – it’s up to the holder of the trademark to pursue an infringement and bring it to resolution so the existence of a “live” mark may not immediately preclude using that term or an associated term – but it should definitely get you on a phone with a trademark lawyer to discuss the details.
Step 2 – Google it. This should seem obvious but not enough people do this. They fall in love with the name and devote so much energy to thinking about that they don’t do the obvious – see what else is out there. If I google the “Healthbox” term I can instantly see that this brand/name is taken and is currently in active use. Time to move on to another name.
Step 3 – Search for the domain. Every new brand or business lives on the web – so take your names and head over to godaddy.com or another domain registrar and start punching them in – this is a critical step. The thing is, you have options. Most organizations get hung up on the .com domain as the only possible outcome – now with all of the new domain extensions you can have many interesting possible web addresses – including things like .fitness, .miami, .photographer, .guru and so on. In the age of hyperlinks and social media marketing fewer and fewer people are typing in the URL of your business so a .com is not 100% required anymore – go with something more creative.
A trick many don’t think of doing also is using a hyphen – “healthbox.com” is taken? How about “health-box.com”? Sometimes a hyphen is all you need to add to get your preferred domain. One additional tip – domains are cheap. If you find something that works for you REGISTER IT NOW – don’t wait – it could disappear tomorrow and you will be left wondering why you didn’t spend the $15 to register it. Also, register the variations (.co, .net, .us, .org – whatever applies) – it’s a cheap way to protect your brand.
That’s it – 3 things you MUST do when naming a business or brand. Let me know your thoughts!