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Business Naming Myth Blasters

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Business Naming Myth Blasters

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Why Incorporate? Show me the comparison chart. Help me choose which entity is right for me.

MyCorporation: Business Naming Myth Blasters

Business Naming Myth Blasters

Why Incorporate?
Show me the comparison chart.
Help me choose which entity is right for me.
Myth #1: If someone uses your business name as a Web site address, you can demand ownership of that domain name

You would think this would be so, but the reality is much more complicated. Sometimes you can approach domain registration companies about acquiring a name that is already being used—but these companies don't have to transfer ownership. And be careful about approaching the owner of a Web address, because that person just might ask for a briefcase full of cash to transfer the domain name. Instead, you may need to find an attorney to help you—if you really think it's worth the legal effort.
In cases like this, you may need to think about coming up with a domain name that is similar to your business name—or think about other possibilities for naming your company.

Myth #2: The effort of researching an ideal business name takes too much time from starting a business

Discovering the right name for a business can be one of the most rewarding—and fun—entrepreneurial activities around. Besides, you'll save more time in the long run by having an appropriate name that you actually own. For one thing, a good name will make your business attractive to customers and investors, and you'll want to spare yourself the embarrassment of explaining a name that doesn't make much sense for your venture.

Myth #3: The name of a small business name should include a reference to location and the services or products sold

Sometimes. If you think you'll be doing business in once place, then names like "Youngstown Zeppelin Service" and "Tri—Valley Blast Furnace Cleaners" make sense. But consider your long—term plans. Where will your business be a year from now—or five or ten years from now? Will you still be in just one location? And will you offer more than one product or service? Possibly—so you may want to think big and give yourself a name that will grow with your business.

Myth #4: You can get a lot of recognition out of using a name that sounds similar to a familiar brand name

This is true, but it probably won't be the kind of recognition you want. If it can be proved that you intentionally made your business name sound like that of another company, you could be in for some legal trouble. That's why names like "Intell," "Dizney," and "General Motor" are likely to catch the attention of corporate lawyers who spend their time looking out for companies that appear to infringe on band names.

Myth #5: You can make your business name seem more established by adding "LLC" or "Inc."

Sometimes true, but you'd also better make sure that your company is actually a limited liability company (LLC) or incorporated as a corporation. These are legal terms showing that a company is doing business in a particular way, and you can't just add these designations to your business name without actually having formed an LLC or corporation.

Myth #6: If a business name you like is taken by another company, that name can't be used

You'd think so, but it depends. If the business name is trademarked, then you can't use that particular name. However, if a company has the same name that you'd like to use, or a similar one, and hasn't trademarked it, you may be able to use it if:

  • The other company does not provide the same services as your business
  • The other company is located in another county or state
  • You're using your own personal name as a business name

This is a situation where you may need to consult a trademark lawyer to make sure you can use a particular name.

Myth #7: You must always register your business name

It's a good idea to register your business name for the sake of protection, but it's not always necessary. For example, sole proprietorships and general partnerships that use the names of their owners are not always required to file or register when the business name is the same as the owner's. LLCs and corporations always submit business names with their articles of incorporation. But regardless of the requirements of your business structure, registering your business name will help you avoid a situation where you may be forced to rename your venture.

Myth #8: You can find all business names in government name registers

Not true for two reasons. First, we still haven't reached the point where all information is easily found in one central repository. And secondly, the government really isn't everywhere. You'll be able to find registered businesses in government name registers, but many businesses are not registered. While these companies may not legally own their names, you don't want to be confused with another business. That's why doing Internet searches will help you narrow down your list of potential business names.

Myth #9: You can trademark just about any word or phrase

Sometimes it seems that way, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has pretty stringent guidelines to make sure people can't trademark commonly used words and phrases. The same goes for secretary of state offices at the state level if you plan to register your trademark regionally. For example, common and ordinary names—such as Smith's Hardware or Tom's Gourmet Sandwiches—aren't distinctive enough to receive trademark protection. Names such as FedEx, Quicken, and Xerox, however, are distinctive enough to receive trademark protection.
Also keep in mind that a common—sounding company name can be trademarked when it is used in conjunction with a particular product. For example, McDonald's is a trademarked name when it is used to market hamburgers—but not things like office supplies and vinyl siding.

Myth #10: Adding the ™ or ® symbol to your company name protects you from other businesses trying to use the same name

Although you can add ™ to your business name if you believe you have the right to use it, if you're serious about protecting your name, apply for trademark protection. Ideally, you should do this before using the ™ symbol. If someone does contest ownership of the name, you'll have the better claim if you have already started the registration process.
Using the ® symbol is an entirely different story, because it is reserved only for companies that have actually had their trademark registered. Until your name is registered, don't use ®—otherwise it will stand for "regrets" instead of "registered."

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