You’ve found a business name you LOVE, and it just feels right but you’ve discovered that someone else is using the same name fortheirbusiness. Should you go back to the drawing board? Or is it okay to copy a business name and use it for your own business?
Well … maybe. But also, maybe not.
The last thing any of us want to get is a cease and desist letter because we accidentally stepped on the toes of another business. So, it’s important to consider the name you choose carefully. Before going any further, pause and ask yourself these questions:
Are you able to get the .com version of your domain name, or is it already purchased? While it’s possible to purchase a .co or .net version, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend this. It only takes one simple mistype of .com to end up on your competitors’ website instead of yours!
Do yourself a favor and do a quick search of the United States Trademark and Patent Office data to see if a business has already trademarked that name. If not - you may be in the clear, legally speaking. (But, keep reading for other important considerations before choosing your business name!) Even if it is trademarked, it might not be the end of the line for your name - yet
If they are, this is likely a name you’ll want to steer away from. Especially if you are going to be utilizing online marketing for your business. The only exception to this would be if you can answer the next question in the negative.
If you love a name that’s already in use, but you are in two vastly different locations, it might be okay to use that same name. For example, if you’re a hair salon in Oregon and another hair salon in Massachusetts has the same name - it’s probably okay to use that name. Of course, this is dependent on being able to answer the next question in the negative …
Yes, we’re circling back to this one, because it’s a big one. If a business name has been trademarked, that’s likely the end of the line for you. Unless it’s a completely different type of business, in a completely different area. However, before going all in, you may want to attempt getting your own trademark first. That way, the United States Patent and Trademark Office can let you know if it’s too similar to another, already trademarked, business.
If you’ve made it here, you may have decided on your name - it’s not trademarked, it’s a different type of business and they’re in a different area. You’re ready to rock and roll, right? Not quite yet. There are a few more things you should consider before you copy a business name.
Related Post: What Should You Do if You Receive a Scary Legal Letter?
Even if you can pass all of the legal requirements for your new potential business name, we do want to caution you with just a few more considerations before you go all in. There are three reasons you may not want to copy a business name - even if you legally can.
Even if a business with the same name isn’t in the same location as you, the internet is an all-in-one place. Meaning that both you and this other business will be fighting for real estate within the top results of search engines.
Think about it - when someone searches your business name, you want your business and only your business to be what pops up. You don’t want to lead a potential client or customer right into the hands of your competitors.
You may be thinking, that’s fine but even if they find the other business, it’s not in the same location so I’m not necessarily leading them to competitors, right? Wrong. Because when someone searches for your business, finds a different business and realizes it’s not who they were looking for - do you really think they’re going to keep digging?
Unlikely. When we’re shopping or looking for services, we are looking for convenience. If it becomes confusing, we’re likely to move on to our next option.
A final consideration is your future growth. Right now you may never plan to expand beyond your in-person location. But if there is even the slightest chance that you’ll expand your business into other markets you should definitely consider coming up with a different name now instead of having to deal with the headache later once you’re established.
In fact, while it may seem overwhelming, now is the best time to set yourself and your business up for success in the future. Don’t wait until “one day” when you feel like you’ve made it. Bet on yourself now, and take the time to establish a strong foundation for your business.
And don’t worry - we’ve made it easy for you by creating our No-Nonsense Checklist to Starting a Business. This checklist gives you everything you need to make sure that your business starts off with the strongest foundation possible!
Amanda Warfield is a simplicity-focused content marketing and launch strategist, author of the book Chasing Simple Marketing, and host of Chasing Simple - a podcast to help creative entrepreneurs uncomplicate their marketing and business. She traded in her classroom lesson plans for speaking and educating creative entrepreneurs on sustainably fitting content marketing into their business, without it taking over their business - so that they have time to grow their business.
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