This post brought to you by Sonal Moore of Moore + Moore IP
Lesson 1: choose the right name
The Internet means the chance to reach lots of potential customers. But, there’s a catch. Other companies, both in Australia and overseas, and potential competitors can also find you. Over the past few years, since the rise of the “mumpreneur” I have seen a number of small businesses go through considerable angst because of the name they chose.
A name has to be catchy, distinctive, reflect your product/service and image, last the test of time, be capable of being protected and most importantly, not infringe someone else’s rights.
Before you decide on a name, do some general Google and phone directory searches to make sure that your name isn’t already being used in Australia. Then there are three registers you should search:
The trade marks register – a registered trade mark gives proprietary rights to its owner. It is an asset which, over time, will acquire goodwill and earn you money when you sell the business. You must check that the name you want will not infringe another person’s registered trade mark. If the Register is clear, then you can consider registering your name as a trade mark. Make sure it’s distinctive as descriptive names can’t be registered. It may seem a bit expensive but once your name is registered no one can use that or a similar name.
The business names register – unless the name is your personal name you will need it registered as a business name. Registering a business name gives no ownership rights to the name.
The domain name register – ideally, your name will form your business’s domain name so that people can find you more easily.
The Motivating Mum website is a great example where “motivating mum” is part of a registered trade mark, a business name and the domain name.
When things go wrong – big companies are getting more aggressive about protecting their names and generally have a lot more money to fight with than small mum businesses. A couple of years ago, and it was a story on Channel 7’s Today Tonight program, a mother started a kid’s fashion label called Zara & Lily with the logo .
She received a letter of demand from the Spanish fashion house Zara complaining about the use of “Zara” even though Zara and Lily were the names of her two children. She decided to give up the name and is now Peach + Pear Kids – which I think is actually better and she doesn’t run the risk of her kids hating her when they are teenagers for using their names.
But according to the news reports the owner was “left with $50,000 worth of stock in her garage she can’t sell under the Zara and Lily name – not to mention two years of goodwill, a website, a logo and a small business that was just starting to turn a profit.”
Registering a mark – anyone can register a mark but there are hidden traps and it is often worthwhile seeking advice about whether the name you want can be used without infringing someone else’s rights and whether it can be registered.
Sonal Moore of Moore+Moore IP is a mother of two almost grown up daughters and has been advising in the intellectual property area for 30 years. Her firm has no website (because there are not enough hours in the day) but you can find her on LinkedIn or at [email protected] She is passionate about helping start-up businesses navigate the world of copyright, trade marks, patents, terms and conditions and the Australian Consumer Law.
Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net