Every time you create a product, service, or business, you need a brand identity for it. Without a doubt, the most important element of most brands is the name.
The law protects names through trademarks, not copyright.
It is not possible to claim copyright in a name, even if the name is one you made up.
Start ups often wonder whether they need to spend the money to register a trademark. Some wonder why it’s not enough to have registered a company or domain name. Yet others have heard of unregistered trademark rights being acquired through use, and wonder why they should not just use the name without bothering with any trademark registrations.
Company and Domain name registrations are insufficient
The short answer to whether company or domain registrations are enough is no. Domain and company names do not give you the necessary rights you need in a name. The fact that they are available to register does not mean you may use them for any purpose you like. You still need to establish whether anyone has trademark rights in the name you’re intending to use as your brand name.
Trademark registration is the way to protect a name, and get the necessary rights you need in that name. It is not a good idea to rely on unregistered trademark rights in the brand name in which you will be building your brand equity.
What is a good name?
A good name will help you to build brand value and to successfully secure trademark registration in the word. But to pick a name that works involves more than meets the eye at first.
As well as conveying the desired personality characteristics, sometimes across world markets and in multiple languages, it’s essential that the brand name be legally available and distinctive.
Often a name is the first issue you need to consider before beginning work on designs, websites, and marketing materials.
Should you register the name?
It all depends on how important the name is to you. If you’ve found a name you are excited about and want to use long term for your business, then you should immediately register it as a trade mark, before you do anything else. That’s the way to establish ownership rights to a name.
If you are not that bothered whether you can use the name long term or not, then don’t worry about trademarking. Once you’ve established that you are not infringing on anyone else’s rights, just go ahead and use the name.
So, when you’re starting a new business, pick any name based on whether your desired domain name is freely available to register. Don’t spend too much on getting an identity sorted for your business either. The focus should be on finding a suitable niche and positioning for your business and testing it.
You can have more than one niche, but best to move forward one niche at a time.
So, initially focus on getting the business off the ground. If your business is viable and works, you can rebrand (by which I mean getting a visual identity in line with your brand values) once you’ve found your feet.
At that time, you could even pick a new name, so you can save if you’re willing to choose a temporary brand name to use as well as temporary designs in the early days.
On the other hand, if you have coined a really inventive name, and like it, or don’t want to have the hassle of a rebranding exercise later, then, of course, you should invest in the name by properly protecting it with a trademark.