Blog Post: How to Name Your Startup

๐—›๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—ก๐—ฎ๐—บ๐—ฒ ๐—ฌ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ ๐—ฆ๐˜๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐˜๐˜‚๐—ฝ.

Youโ€™d never know it by sheer volume of advice, but one of the most important legal decisions facing founders doesnโ€™t have anything to do with capital structure, dilution or corporate law generally. Instead, it comes under the category of trademark law and is the question of what to call this precious new entity youโ€™ve just formed.

๐—ช๐—ต๐˜† ๐—ฑ๐—ผ๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐—บ๐—ฒ ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฟ?

Your company name is your brand, signifier to the world of the source of your products and metaphysical container for your reputation. And, at a practical level, itโ€™s how the world will (or will not) find you through search engines and app stores. So, picking a name that you can use and protect widely, without hassle, is critical for a new company.

๐—ช๐—ต๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ธ๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—ฎ ๐—ด๐—ผ๐—ผ๐—ฑ ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐—บ๐—ฒ?

A good name is a unique name โ€“ a word you make up yourself. Think โ€œAtlassianโ€ or โ€œGoogle.โ€

๐—ช๐—ต๐˜† ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ถ๐—พ๐˜‚๐—ฒ ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜?

The arena for brand names has never been more crowded or more global, which means itโ€™s harder than ever to find words you can register as a domain or protect as a trademark. If you coin your own name, you dramatically increase the likelihood of snagging the .com and, importantly, achieving U.S. and foreign trademark registrations.

๐—•๐˜‚๐˜ ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ธ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐˜‚๐—ฝ ๐—ฎ ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐—บ๐—ฒ ๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฑ.

Choosing an existing word is tempting and, of course, seems to have worked fine for “Amazon,โ€ โ€œAppleโ€ and “Snowflake.” But we now have one global marketplace and way more companies out there seeking to use the same words for brand purposes. Run a quick search and see for yourself. (And, as a general rule of thumb, consider that the largest companies in the world may have access to resources not yet available to you.)

๐—œโ€™๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ ๐˜‚๐—ฝ ๐—ฎ ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐—บ๐—ฒ โ€“ ๐˜„๐—ต๐—ฎ๐˜โ€™๐˜€ ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐˜…๐˜?

Search it. Check Google, app stores, a domain registry and the US Patent and Trademark Office ( What youโ€™re looking for here is . . . nothing. Big, glorious nothing. If you do get hits, ask your trademark lawyer to help assess whether what youโ€™re seeing is noise or could present a problem down the road.

๐——๐—ถ๐—ฑ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚ ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—น๐—น๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ ๐—ผ๐˜„๐—ป ๐—ฎ๐—ฑ๐˜ƒ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ?

Yes! โ€œBontermsโ€ is an invented word โ€“ a play on the French word for good and โ€œterms.โ€ The domain was available and weโ€™ve achieved U.S. (and growing list of foreign) registrations on our name, corporate logo and Standard Agreements stamp logo. (The U.S. registration is why we can now use the circled R symbol).

๐——๐—ผ ๐—œ ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ฎ ๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ธ ๐—น๐—ฎ๐˜„๐˜†๐—ฒ๐—ฟ?

Yes, of course. Trademark is a highly specialized area of law, your mark is a core asset and trying to โ€œfix it laterโ€ can be incredibly painful.

H/tย Jeremy van Cleefย for logo design andย Nate Garhartย for counsel and registrations.