Are you aware of a business name that has held a company back – for example, a name that may have put off bankers and creditors from granting funding to a firm? Or, how about a landlord refusing to rent to a firm? If business names can trigger negative consequences, what are some good rules of thumb when considering a risqué or offbeat name?
–Jim Osburn, Chicago
Although creditors might not care if your company’s name is risqué, “landlords are free to reject potential tenants for any reason that’s not unlawfully discriminatory,” says Barry Werbin, the chair of the intellectual property practice group at New York law firm Herrick, Feinstein. In addition, U.S. trademark law prohibits registering marks that a substantial portion of the public would consider “immoral or scandalous.” So, if you want to protect your company name from infringers, a lewd name is certainly not the best option, he says.
Selecting an unsavory name can also put off or confuse customers, says Brenda S. Bence, the founder of Brand Development Associates, a personal and corporate branding consultancy in Chicago. “You will spend a lot of time and hard-earned money trying to explain what your business is all about instead of focusing on how you can compete better,” she says.
If you’re struggling to pick an appropriate company name, do some market research, Bence says. Locate members of your prospective target audience — those who aren’t already familiar with your company — and ask them what they think. To aid your research, check out the survey web site, SurveyMonkey.com, where you can send up to 100 surveys for free.
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