The 5 Steps to Make Sure Your Course, Blog or Business Name is Available (with step-by-step walkthrough!) [Naming Series - Post 3 of 4]
If you need to catch up on this series, click here to read my last post, 5 Compelling Reasons to Name Your Business, Blog or Online Course for Nurturing New Leads.
You have a short list of names for your online course, blog or business-- but how do you know if any of them are available?
The availability of your name is based on something called trademark law. More on that in Step 4 ;)
The biggest thing you need to know about trademark law is that if someone else is actively selling something with a name you're thinking about, it's not a good idea to keep forging ahead with your name idea.
I'll show you my five secret steps to sussing out any name I'm interested here, in an easy step-by-step format.
But if you still have questions, you should make sure you're signed up for my upcoming Names that Nurture training where I'll be answering questions about everything here.
Let's get started!
Step 1: You lurk on Facebook a ‘lil bit.
What we're looking for here with our "knockout" search is to knockout any names that aren't available. And Facebook is a good starter step.
We're all familiar with it, and the search features it has are pretty good.
To perform a search on Facebook, you'll simply pull up your account and search for each name you're considering.
I like to do this in quotes, with several variations of the names I'm considering with different spellings.
Step 2: You do a targeted Google search.
We'll repeat the actions from Step 1 here, searching the name(s) you're considering in quotes.
Then, use the chart to figure out if it's time to kill off any prospects, or if you can keep going to Step 3.
Step 3: You snag the domain for your name.
It isn't a deal breaker if your name isn't available in a .com domain. BUT... I do take it as a HUGELY good sign if [YourName].com is available!
If it's not, and you've cleared your name through steps 1 and 2 so far, here are some easy ways to make the exact name you want memorable and accessible to future buyers:
www.[yourname][yourprofession].com, like www.[yourname]photo.com
www.[yourname][verb].com, like www.[yourname]letters.com
At the end of the day, your domain isn't going to make or break you. Better options may become available later on.
The most important thing is that the trademark is available, which is what Step 4 breaks down for you.
Step 4: You check out a national trademark database.
I know we have lots of friends outside the United States, but when it comes to trademark law, the US is where I look.
First, because I'm based here.
Second, it's primarily where I advertise what I have to sell.
Third, and most importantly, because it's where the overwhelming majority of my sales come from.
Regardless of where you're based, if you sell to people in the US, you won't want to skip this step.
Here's exactly how to run a basic trademark search in X steps.
Step 4.1: Pull up the search on the USPTO website. You can find this at:
USPTO.gov >> "Searching Trademarks" from the dropdown "Trademarks" menu >> the button that says "Search our trademark database (TESS)"
Step 4.2: Once you see three search options from the "Select a Search Option" menu, you'll choose "Basic Word Mark Search (New User)."
This is always my first step. And no, I'm not a new user.
Step 4.3: In the search term box, you'll type the name you're thinking about in quotations, like this:
"The Contract Shop"
Once you've typed in the word or phrase you're after, you'll hit the "Submit Query" button.
Step 4.4: If you're getting a ton of results, skip ahead to Step 1.5.
If nothing comes up, go back and try Step 3 again with different spellings. You can also try removing some of the filler words, like "a" and "the."
If you're still getting nada, move on to Step 2.
If you get some results, but not too many, you'll want to read more about things called "classes" in Step 1.5.
Step 4.5: If you're getting a ton of results, you're not out of luck yet.
First we have to see if they matter.
The way trademark law works is that you don't get a monopoly on your name across all possible things you could ever sell.
For example, I own the trademark Clients on Tap® for an online course about how to get clients. However, if a tire shop opened up calling itself "Clients on Tap," there's very little, if anything, I could do to stop them.
For this reason, we want to narrow the search down by the category your products or services fall into. The trademark office calls these categories "classes," so that's how I'll refer to them from now on.
When I have a name that comes back with a lot of results, I'm not going to waste my time looking through all that crap.
Instead, I'm going to narrow my results down by class. It sounds complicated, but it's super simple.
All you have to do is go back to that original "search query" page here. At the top, there's a series of seven very hard-to-read, blue buttons. You'll select the button that says "Structured."
In the first search term box, you can type the name you're thinking about in quotes again. Next to it in the dropdown "Field" menu, you will select "Pseudo Mark."
In the "Field" menu right under that, you'll select "International Class," because you have class and you want the world to know about it. Okay, that is not why... but we can pretend like that's what's up here.
You'll see another dropdown menu that says "Operator." Here, we pick "AND" for this kind of search.
And finally, we'll finish this off with the second "Search Term" box, where we'll put our class.
Simply type your class into the final empty box for the second "Search Term" field.
Oh no! You don't know your class yet :(
I got chu boo.
Here's the most common classes for most of my audience.
Products (Classes 001 to 034):
009 - downloads, like freebies, workbooks, digital planners and podcasts
016 - stationery, this includes any kind of printed paper product like wedding invitations, planners, stickers, etc.
021 - mugs, drinkware, glassware
025 - t-shirts, apparel
Services (Classes 035 to 045)
035 - online stores, consulting and business services, like social media consulting or management
041 - this is the "sister" class to Class 009; basically anything that you can't download goes in 41, and something you can download goes in 009. This class includes coaching, photography, websites, blogs and in-person teaching workshops
042 - graphic design, web design
You can always look up what class you're in, or looking up a product or service you sell that's not listed by clicking here.
If you are still getting search results back, check out what the name is related to. You can do that by clicking on your new, much smaller list thanks to your "Structured Search."
Don't kid yourself-- if someone is selling something mildly related to you, it's usually a bad idea to keep pressing forward with that name.
I hear you guys all the time, "oh but she's a life coach and I'm a health coach, so I'm okay to use the same name, right?"
To which I reply, "do YOU want to explain to some crochety old trademark examiner what the difference between those are?"
A coach is a coach to those trademark examiners. Don't try to split hairs with them-- pick a new name and play it safe.
On the flip side, if you've made it this far, that's great news. It's time to move on to the fifth and final step!
Step 5: You put your copycats + shady lurkers on notice that it’s your name.
You already know how hard it is to name something by now. Not everyone will be as diligent as you-- especially if you have a great product or service idea.
That's why it's critical you build a brand, founded on a strong name-- which you now understand how to create!
Before any shady ladies or rude dudes can rip you off, you'll want to register the name you choose with the trademark office.
A registration puts the whole world on notice that this baby is YOURS, and they're not allowed to use it.
Plus, ya know, Facebook, Google, etc. will get any infringing content removed lickety-split so you can stop losing sales to your inferior copycat.
But... they'll only do this if you have a trademark registration.
In my next post, I’ll reveal the 9 myths about trademarks that will hold you back, with exactly how to get unstuck!
And, don't forget to sign up for my upcoming workshop: Names that Nurture!