There are six questions every business should ask themselves when they are building a brand (i.e., developing their trademark) for their products and services.
1. Is your brand already in use by another?
When creating a brand, you should verify that there aren’t other similar brand names used in connection with similar goods/services. The existence of multiple brand names could cause consumer confusion and potentially diminish the goodwill associated with your brand. In addition, you may wind up infringing on a prior user’s trademark rights. Ultimately, you want your brand to stand out from your competitors. As a result, consumers know they are getting the quality associated with your company.
2. Did another entity register your trademark?
If another person or entity owns trademark rights to your brand, they have exclusive rights in using that brand in connection with their identified goods/services. Building a brand only to find out that you can no longer use that brand could be a major time and money drain. Worse yet, it could potentially land you in a court room for trademark infringement. Many startups have crashed and burned do to this pitfall.
3. Does your brand have alternative meanings in different languages?
Your brand name could potentially have a negative meaning in a different language. For example, Chevy produced a car branded as the Nova, which translates to “no go” in Spanish. Rumor has it that the car failed in Spanish speaking countries do to this inadvertent yet shortsighted branding.
4. Does your brand merely describe the goods or services you are offering?
Often times, individuals choose brands that describe the goods/services offered under the brand. Unfortunately, brands that are merely descriptive will likely not be afforded exclusive trademark rights. In some instances, the USPTO will register descriptive brands. However, those brands must have a substantial level of fame among consumers. Without a trademark registration, competitors can use a similar brand name.
5. Do you plan to establish your brand in more than one country?
Trademark rights are territorial. Thus, it is possible that your brand may be available for registration in the US, but not in other countries. If you plan to enter multiple countries, you should determine whether another entity is using your brand in those countries.
6. What domain names are available?
Domain name registrations are first come, first served, unless the registration occurred in bad faith to profit off an existing trademark. If you haven’t selected a trademark, consider whether the corresponding domain name is available for purchase. You don’t want to lose customers because they find an unrelated web page when searching for your website using your brand.
While there are some additional questions for building a brand, you should start with the six questions above.