Registering trademarks for your startup’s name and branding is a crucial step when starting a business. A good name and logo can go a long way to capturing a substantial market share. However, if you choose the wrong trademarks, you’re stuck with naming and branding that could make growing your business more difficult. Learn about seven common trademark mistakes that could cost your company and how to avoid them.
1. Deciding Trademarks by Committee
The more people you invite to develop your company’s trademarks, the more people you’ll be disappointing when you end up choosing only one name and logo. Naming and branding expert Phil Davis says you might think choosing trademarks by consensus makes more people feel heard and respected. But you end up “alienating the very people you’re trying to involve,” he says.
Another downside to deciding on naming and branding by committee is that consensus decisions often involve so many compromises that the results are safe and boring. Davis recommends involving the bare minimum of key decision-makers to determine trademarks. Also, make sure that the people you select are committed to the company’s core interests and mission.
2. Forgetting Aesthetics and Forcing a Name that ‘Makes Sense’
Entrepreneurs often try to force two words together — usually an adjective and a noun — to come up with a company name that describes the product or service they offer. Quality Service becomes QualiServe. This can be a quick and easy way to develop trademarks, but this method often backfires. “The results are names that have a certain twisted rationale to them, but look and sound awful,” Davis says.
Think of all the companies out there that use some form of “Ameri”, “Tech”, “Corp” or “Tron” in their name. Take your time to test multiple potential trademarks that look and sound natural and organic.
3. Using Forgettable Wording
As more and more media and advertising channels pop up, trademarks that stand out from the crowd become more and more important. You might be able to get away with a generic name if you’re the first company in a category, says Davis. But unless you’re the next General Motors or General Electric, you need to use words that separate your company from the competition.
By taking the time to write and develop branding that is unique and memorable, you can carve out a niche that no one else can touch.
4. Naming Your Company Based on Its Location
For small businesses, it’s common to choose trademarks based on where they operate. Such naming may help attract local clientele, but the name can become a barrier to future growth. It’s possible to overcome this problem: Minnesota Manufacturing and Mining became 3M and Kentucky Fried Chicken is known internationally as KFC. But when developing trademarks, think about all the potential global markets you might eventually want to reach, advises Davis.
5. Ignoring Who Owns the Trademarks
If you ever decide to sell your trademarks, only the person or entity who actually owns them gets paid. If you don’t pay close attention to who owns a trademark, it might get registered under your attorney’s, partner’s, or corporation’s name. The last thing you want is a long, heated legal battle over trademark ownership, says San Francisco marketing expert John Rampton.
6. Overestimating Your Trademarks
Trademarks generally only cover one class of products or services. That means another company can legally use the same naming and branding if their goods and services don’t compete with yours, regardless of the trademarks you own. For example, Dove Soap and Dove Chocolates can use the same name without violating the other’s trademarks, says Rampton.
7. Letting the Name Grow Too Long
The more characters in your naming and branding, the less likely consumers will remember your company. Startup attorney Steve Cook points to successful one- or two-word company names: Apple, Amazon, Wal-Mart. “Even PricewaterhouseCoopers doesn’t use its full name, but goes by PwC,” he says. When thinking of trademarks, brevity is key.