𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗼 𝗡𝗮𝗺𝗲 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝗿𝘁𝘂𝗽.
You’d never know it by sheer volume of advice, but one of the most important legal decisions facing founders doesn’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 you’ve just formed.
𝗪𝗵𝘆 𝗱𝗼𝗲𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗻𝗮𝗺𝗲 𝗺𝗮𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿?
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, it’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.
𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗺𝗮𝗸𝗲𝘀 𝗮 𝗴𝗼𝗼𝗱 𝗻𝗮𝗺𝗲?
A good name is a unique name – a word you make up yourself. Think “Atlassian” or “Google.”
𝗪𝗵𝘆 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘂𝗻𝗶𝗾𝘂𝗲 𝗻𝗮𝗺𝗲𝘀 𝗯𝗲𝘀𝘁?
The arena for brand names has never been more crowded or more global, which means it’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.
𝗕𝘂𝘁 𝗺𝗮𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘂𝗽 𝗮 𝗻𝗮𝗺𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗱.
Choosing an existing word is tempting and, of course, seems to have worked fine for “Amazon,” “Apple” 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.)
𝗜’𝘃𝗲 𝗺𝗮𝗱𝗲 𝘂𝗽 𝗮 𝗻𝗮𝗺𝗲 – 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁’𝘀 𝗻𝗲𝘅𝘁?
Search it. Check Google, app stores, a domain registry and the US Patent and Trademark Office (https://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=login&p_lang=english&p_d=trmk). What you’re looking for here is . . . nothing. Big, glorious nothing. If you do get hits, ask your trademark lawyer to help assess whether what you’re seeing is noise or could present a problem down the road.
𝗗𝗶𝗱 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗳𝗼𝗹𝗹𝗼𝘄 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗮𝗱𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲?
Yes! “Bonterms” is an invented word – a play on the French word for good and “terms.” The domain was available and we’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).
𝗗𝗼 𝗜 𝗻𝗲𝗲𝗱 𝗮 𝘁𝗿𝗮𝗱𝗲𝗺𝗮𝗿𝗸 𝗹𝗮𝘄𝘆𝗲𝗿?
Yes, of course. Trademark is a highly specialized area of law, your mark is a core asset and trying to “fix it later” can be incredibly painful.
H/t Jeremy van Cleef for logo design and Nate Garhart for counsel and registrations.