Having a business, brand, and domain that are all the same allows people to find your business much easier. Business, brand, and domain names are often referred to interchangeably but are not always the same. In today’s world of E-commerce, it is not essential to match your business, brand, and domain names. However, it does make things easier to associate with a business and simpler for people to find the business. Check out our article on recognized trademarks for some famous examples of branding success.
What is a Business Name – Name Branding
A business name is the legally registered moniker for your business. In addition to being what you want people to know you as, a business name is used for administrative tasks such as opening a business bank account, paying taxes, or conducting payroll. The common format is to include the brand of the business followed by the company’s business structure. Think Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., Shell plc, or Tesla Inc. This business naming structure does not have to be followed.
Many larger companies who house multiple brands under one major company have completely different business names from their brands. An example of this would be Kraft Foods Group. Kraft houses large food and beverage brands like Oreo, Kool-Aid, Chips Ahoy!, Lunchables and Jell-O.
How to Register a Business
The first step to acquiring a name is determining whether or not it is available. Businesses based in the same state cannot legally be registered under the same words. To perform a search for a preferred name, one can check the government website of the state the business is based in. Although legal, it is not advised to choose a name that is registered in a different state as it may lead to confusion and potential loss in clients or customers.
Registering a Business in Your County
Once it is determined no one else is using the preferred name, one could proceed to register your business. The simplest form of registration is to file a fictitious business name (or a DBA, Doing Business As) application at a local county clerk’s office. This type of registration allows you to market your business as well as make financial business transactions; however, it is not formally incorporated.
Registering a Business in Your State
To formally register your business, one would visit the Secretary of State to register as a LLC or corporation. An LLC is different from a DBA, because an LLC is a separate entity from the business owner. Registering a business this way allows for stronger legal protection.
Important Tip: Registration in each state is not required. If your business involves nationwide e-commerce, only registration in the state the business operates from is necessary.
For Business Name Ideas – Try a Brand Name Generator Free
If you are looking for help or suggestions for brand name ideas, it can be helpful to use a generator for name ideas. There are free online generators that you can use to help create a brand name and logo. For example, Brandmark has a free business name generator that can be used when branding.
What is a Brand?
A business’s name can be a brand. To fully grasp what a business name is, one must understand what a brand name is. A brand name is the name used to identify either a family of or a single line of products or services presented by a company. This is different from a business name as a company can contain multiple brand names. Some famous brand names own other brands. For example, PepsiCo Inc. owns and provides products under big brand names like Doritos, Cheetos, Tropicana, Quaker, Gatorade, and more in addition to producing Pepsi. All of those major brands have a different brand name than their business name, PepsiCo Inc.
How to Get a Brand Name
Brand names often lead to trademarks. A trademark is the exclusive right to use a name, slogan, or logo to identify a business or line of products or services. In order to trademark a brand name, one must have been using the brand name for business use or intends to use it in the future. Trademarks are only available to businesses.
Need Brand or Product Naming Ideas – Try a Name Generator
If you are looking for help or suggestions for brand or product naming ideas, it can be helpful to use a generator. There are free online name generators that you can use to choose when creating a brand and logo. For example, Brandmark has a free business name generator that can be used when name branding.
Ideally, a company’s brand name should be memorable, relatively short, easy to pronounce, and unique to its industry. Many large companies have such simple names, for example Apple, Target, and Uber.
The more unique a brand is, the higher the chance of one’s trademark registration being approved as no one else is using the brand in business. On the other hand, descriptive naming tend to be rejected often by the USPTO. For example, a brand like “Ethan’s Electronics” or “Betty’s Baked Buns” would likely be rejected due to the fact it is too generic unless there is ongoing use and recognition. Using only a person’s name in the brand is too broad and thousands of businesses contain the word electronics in their name. The easiest brands to register are those that are invented by the business owner due to the fact they are entirely unique.
Trademarking Your Brand
After you have picked the words for your brand and conjured a logo to use, you may choose to apply to register your brand as a trademark.
Important Tip: It is best to use the name and logo for several years before applying to register for trademark protection. You can register before use, but even if accepted, the mark will be placed on the supplemental register. You will then need to later file a statement of use to get it moved up to the principal register.
Research the Name You Want to Use
To register your brand name as a trademark, first one must find out if it is available. This search process can begin at the USPTO database. It is important to not only search for your desired brand name, but also for any similar names, as it may serve as a basis of rejection of the trademark application. A deeper search can be done on search engines, business directories (local and state), or trademark databases by state. Read more about trademark registration step one on our 4 steps to trademark page.
Collect Evidence of Your Use
If your brand is unused and available, the following step would be to begin the trademark registration process. This process is fairly simple and can be done oneself. A trademark attorney can also assist you with your trademark application. The next step focuses on collecting evidence of your use of the words or images you want to register. For more information on the second step of the trade registration process, visit our 4 steps to trademark article.
Submit a Trademark Registration Application
After the evidence of use is collected, one would then login to the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) to complete an application online. Already having the collection of evidence of use from the previous step will make this much easier and prevents the need to file a second set of documents if done properly and completely. Read more about trademark registration step three on our 4 steps to trademark page.
Respond to Letters and Requests from the USPTO
Once a trademark registration application is on file, the USPTO will examine the application and communicate with you by letters called office actions. Be sure to respond to each issue raised and offer a complete response that addresses everything brought up in the office action. Read more about trademark registration step four on our 4 steps to trademark page.
What is a Domain Name?
A domain simply put it is the name of your website. It consists of two major parts: a name usually in the form of a set of words or letters and a top-level domain.
The name portion of a domain can consist of more than just letters. Numbers and dashes are allowed in a domain, however, it is advised for businesses to not incorporate them into their domain. This is due to the fact that numbers or dashes complicate the path for a consumer or client trying to reach your website when they could have simply entered your brand or business.
A top-level domain (TLD) is the ending to a domain – whatever follows the “.” symbol. This can be anything from “com,” “org,” “net,” “biz,” “edu,” or “gov.”
How to Get a Domain Name
Domains must be registered by a domain registrar and entered into the Domain Name System (DNS). A domain registrar is a person or business that handles the “buying” of internet intellectual property in the form domain names. Popular domain name registrars include GoDaddy and Google. If it is preferred for the domain name ownership information remain private, most registrars offer an additional fee to keep this information confidential. There are many domain registrars available for use. For help registering a domain by a patent attorney, contact us.
Important Note: You cannot actually buy a domain. Domain are not not bought, they are leased on an annual term.
Pick a Top Level Domain Name
Picking a top level domain includes picking the word or words for the domain and the top level type to be registered. Of course, the “.com” is best, but there are hundreds of other choices that might be perfect depending on the business and the naming deleted.
Pick a Registrar
Picking a domain registrar can be the most important part of getting your own domain. Most service providers are quick to get you to register, because they know or believe you will also be buying other services from them such as website hosting or design and set up.
Be Sure Your Registrar Will Let You Control Your Domain Name
There are some domain registrars that make changing the hosted location or configuration of your domain difficult after you buy it. For example, it may become difficult to move your website off of GoDaddy if they are also your domain registrar.
What If My Preferred Domain Name Is Taken?
If a preferred domain name is already registered, there is more searching that should be done, because you will likely need a different word or words. Sometimes domains are purchased and resold by their owners. Websites such as BrandBucket are a marketplace that hosts sellers offering brand-able domains for sale.
There are a couple methods to registering a preferred brand name as a domain name if it is already registered. The first method would be to add common business vocabulary such as “get” or “app.” For example, let’s say the dog walking company Wag wants the already registered domain name of wag.com. Other options could be getwag.com or wagapp.com.
The next method of would be to utilize a different extension depending on the industry of one’s business. A few examples of popular business extensions include “.io,” “.ly,” or “co.” If using a domain name extension, it is important to pay attention to which extensions other businesses in your industry use. Some extensions work better in certain industries than others.
The Cons to Not Using Matching Names
The major issue with not matching your business to your brand and choosing the same domain comes down to consumer assumption. People tend to assume a brand’s name will also be their website. When domains don’t match the brand, it leads to confusion. Confused consumers often create distrust, leading to a loss in revenue for one’s business. Read about picking a website designer.
Another issue with mismatching is the possibility that your brand’s matching domain belongs to another business. This means one’s intended traffic is being driven to another business when potential clients or customers are searching for their brand online.
A common assumption consumers make is using “.com” after the name as this is the number one most used and trusted TLD. Not using a “.com” can also create questions between the business and client or consumer; because it may seem as if they reached the wrong website, resulting in loss of more traffic.
If a business starts without an exact match domain, then ends up wanting an exact match domain after becoming a successful business, attaining the exact will be much more necessary. However, because the company is now well known and profitable, domain buyers will likely buy and increase the price of the exact matching domain. There is only one allowed with the same domain and TLD at a time. Sellers are aware of the preference for exact matching of brand and domain. So, for this reason, they drive up the price knowing the company will likely end up paying to acquire the exact match.
There are laws preventing profiteering from harvesting the domain names obviously suited to another, but people still try to do it. An example of this is seen with Twitter and Facebook. Twitter.com was originally twttr.com and facebook.com was originally thefacebook.com. Both companies grew immensely and ended up having to pay domain sellers thousands to retrieve their matching brand’s domain.