Copyright, Trademark, License, CopyrightIs there anything more important to your business than its name? It’s the cornerstone of your company identity. If you need proof of this, just imagine Target’s branding if the retailer still used its original name, Dayton Dry Goods Company!

Selecting the right name for your company is critical and should be followed by taking the right legal steps. The process entails three stages: brainstorming, investigation, and registration:

Step 1: The brainstorm

Consider what’s important to your business…what’s the first thing you want a customer to think about your company? A descriptive name helps customers know what you’re all about (i.e. Speedy Cleaning vs. Speedy). But don’t box yourself in with too detailed a description; you never know if you’ll end up expanding down the road. When you’ve got a dozen or so names, poll your family and friends on their opinion. But don’t get too attached to any one name until you know it’s available.

Step 2: Investigation

Trust me, you don’t want to end up on the wrong side of a trademark dispute. So before you order your business cards and letterhead, make sure you’re legally permitted to use that name:

  • Search corporate names in the secretary of state’s database in the state where you’re planning on setting up your business by using a trademark search engine.
  • Conduct a Free Trademark Search to see if your name is available to use at the federal level.
  • You can infringe on someone else’s mark even if they’ve never formally registered it with the USPTO. For this reason, you’ll also need to do a comprehensive nationwide trademark search into state and local databases.

Step 3: Registration

After you’ve settled on a name, you need to register it with the proper authorities. This should be done as soon as possible to prevent someone else from registering it. An assumed name –- also referred to as a “Fictitious Business Name” or “Doing Business As (DBA)” — is the easiest type of registration. This involves applying for a name at the county government offices and paying a fee.

In addition, you’ll enjoy significantly stronger protection by Registering your Trademark with the USPTO. This will make it much easier for you to recover your trademark should someone else try to use it.

Remember that your name represents your brand and business. Follow these three steps to make sure the name is yours to use legally for decades to come.

This original content by Nellie Akalp was written for and published on