How to Check If a Brand Name Is Taken
A brand is a protective wall around your business. Customers and users alike see your services and products through the lens of your brand. This lens allows you to charge a premium price. Before you can do so, you need to ensure that your brand name is actually available and not taken or used by another business. Using the search below you can check if another business is using the name for key social media channels or domain names.
Below you can find more information on key issues around searching, registering and protecting your brand name.
How to find out if a brand is trademarked
Checking if a brand name is protected means usually checking for a trade- or service-mark. Naturally, you should consult the national and international trademark registers for this search. While it’s okay to check only your national register it’s advisable to check more widely. The following links lead you to the official trademark registers in several countries which are closely related or in a trade agreement:
- US Patent and Trademark Office and Canadian Trademarks Database for North America,
- European Union Intellectual Property Office for searches of trademarks, word-marks, service marks etc. in the EU and the UK Trademark Search for the United Kingdom,
- Public Trademark Search in India,
- Australian Trade Mark Search and Intellectual Property Office for New Zealand.
Once you have completed this search, it pays to check if your desired name is actually available using a domain name search and social media username search (above).
What is the importance of a brand?
As mentioned earlier, a brand is a protective wall around your business. This means your customers are more likely to choose your service or product over a similar service or product of a competitor. Why? Because the brand is giving intrinsic value clues: It starts with the color schema and continues to the font selection on to the design of your logo. All visual components as well as information such as your environmental policy or diversity statements should give a coherent picture of your business. This picture drives trust in you and your business and thereby enables the customer to justify to themselves paying a higher price than for another similar service or product.
What makes a great brand name?
A great brand name is usually summarized by a number of attributes to fulfill:
- Meaningful: Your customers connect a desired emotion with your brand. This is usually a positive emotion, as negative emotions don’t lead to actions.
- Distinct: Your brand must stand out among other brands, companies and products. It should stick in your customers' memory.
- Simple: Your brand name should be easy to write, speak and spell. Ideally, there should be no obstacles for users to recognize you and your business. When someone says “Google” you know immediately what is referred to.
- Short: In most cases, brand names are rather short. Except for Coca-Cola, all of the world's most valuable brands are only one word and none exceed ten letters.
- Available: Your brand should be available for you to use and protect. In plain, it should not already be trademarked or registered as a domain name (see above). If you can’t own it, you can’t use it.
- It should be the right “size”: Your brand should be wide enough to cover adjacent markets but not too wide to lose its meaning (see 1).
- Ideally you want to be able to visually convey your message. The online giants are great examples here: Wherever you see the blue “f” on white background you know immediately it refers to Facebook. Same goes for Amazon’s orange arrow or Google’s colorful “G”. If you struggle to find the right image, a graphic designer can help. Check Freelancer.com or PeoplePerHour for deals.
With these seven steps you should be able to identify if your brand name is a hit or miss. If you aren’t sure, consult other business owners or reach out to us.
Basics: Should my brand and company name match?
There is no need to match the brand and business name. It’s common that company and brand name aren’t matching. For example, the popular moisturizer brand “Nivea” is owned by a company called “Beiersdorf” or the online payment service “PayPal” is owned by eBay, Inc. (which also operates the online auction platform with the same name). It’s common practice for large operations to run a number of brands. Some companies are an umbrella for hundreds of brands.
Can my domain be slightly different than the brand name?
While it is ideal for your brand name to match the domain name, it doesn’t have to match 100%. Especially at the beginning, many companies opt for a different domain name because their first choice is either blocked or used by someone else. For example, Elon Musk’s company Tesla started with “TeslaMotor.com“ and switched to “Tesla.com” once they were able to acquire the domain name. You can always attempt to find the domain owner and reach out to discuss the issue.
How to protect my brand online
There are multiple approaches to protecting your brand online. It starts with registering the related domain names for your key markets and continues on to trademarking your logo and corporate identity.
Another way to ensure you are staying on top is setting up a Google Alert for your brand name. Whenever Google finds a mention of your brand around the internet you will receive a notification email.
Also, regular public activity is important, as it signals to competitors that you are actively maintaining your “image”. This makes sure people don’t assume you aren’t taking your business seriously.
Building a brand is a valuable investment. There is no point in starting before you validate your business idea - without revenue you can’t invest in your brand. After validating, get a great business name and get started. Persistence and execution lead to success.