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Naming your UK company

So you’ve had that lightbulb moment and noticed that gap in the market or a new way to satisfy an existing consumer demand. But what do you call it? Defining your brand is incredibly important – brand values will become the backbone to your business and help consumers understand exactly what they can expect from your products or service. But to make that initial attraction, you need to think of a name.

It’s important to bear these points in mind:

  • it’s tempting to be descriptive, to help your target client know exactly what you’re offering. However, from an IP perspective, descriptive marks are a nightmare.
  • in the UK and at EU level, any mark which is descriptive of the characteristics of the mark (including its quality, characteristics, intended purpose or intended users) or any mark which lacks distinctive character for the relevant goods or services, is not capable of registration
  • Invented words have the best chance of success but are often hard to generate and can be more difficult to market in the early days
  • single letter marks or combinations of numbers are also difficult, but not impossible, to protect
  • Taglines and slogans work well in marketing but in the UK are not registrable as trade marks, as they don’t enable consumers to identify the business behind the mark. Keep your slogans for the marketing, rather than your headline brand. This also keeps you agile, as you never know if you might need to pivot your brand message at a later stage.
  • Think long term: investing in your brand allows your business to be more easily recognised. You’re going to spend a lot of time talking about it, so make sure it’s something you love.
  • Think about your target market – will your brand be difficult to pronounce in certain countries? Does it have a local meaning which could be offensive or inappropriate?
  • What about your digital footprint? Does the name translate well to domains and social handles? If you type it out, does it autocorrect to something weird?! Is it easy to get the spelling wrong? If you’re wanting to use an acronym does the acronym spell something unsuitable?!
  • Check whether the domain and social handles are available
  • Finally make sure no one else is using the mark or has rights in the mark: this goes beyond a simple google search and requires a clearance search to check the trade mark registers for prior rights
  • If you don’t do proper checks before settling on your name and launching the brand, you run the risk of (1) getting sued for trade mark infringement and/or (2) not being able to get any trade mark protection for the mark – which is not good if you want to convince investors to support your business

There’s no harm working with a branding or design agency to work out your options but remember they don’t typically do full legal checks as part of their service. Remember to ask and, if they don’t provide legal clearance searches, make sure these are done before you commit to a name and spend money on graphics and branding

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