29. April 2014–
One of the barriers after setting up a business/project/product is the naming.
Why is naming so important?
A deliberate brand name allows your customers to easily locate your business across the web. At the same time, you can obtain visibility in search results, a better word-of-mouth and a holistic brand presence when rolling out. Last but not least, good naming saves you big bucks for domain re-acquisition and trademark lawsuits later on.
Finding a proper name has never been as difficult as it is today – thanks to trademark rights, domain grabbing and internationalization implications.
Listed below are the most important steps in fast forward:
1. Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm!
Brainstorm with 2-3 people by randomly writing down words that are associated positively with your topic. Good names often result through simple combinations of two brand-related keywords (e.g. „Gym“ + „Mondo“ = „Gymondo“). Marketing best practices suggest that 4-6 letters is the perfect length. Due to the limited availability of domains these days, the reality for most startups is 7-8 letters.
Need inspiration? Try Namefind and Panabee. Crowdsourcing is also an option (namingforce, namestation). Still need inspiration? Consult naming agencies like Endmark or Nambos. The price tag ranges from 5,000 - 100,000 €.
2. Trademark audit & domain registration
Is your name already in use? Does it sound like another (protected) brand?
Research on German trademarks through DPMA, EU-wide trademarks through OHIM and US trademarks through USPTO. I also recommend Tulex for consolidated search queries. IP lawyers will do the work for you for 2,000 - 6,000 € depending on the research scope.
Notwithstanding, a good name is a name that is available under major domain endings. Try to register your name in all important markets, even if there are no plans to rollout to Singapore at the moment. Use bulk registration services like Domaindiscount 24 instead of overpriced end-consumer providers.
By the way: European Internet users are used to dashes (like in epic-companies.com). English-speaking markets are more used to URLs without dashes (e.g. theheureka.com). Try to get both versions, if applicable. Also do not forget to register all major misspelling domain variations of your name (e.g. Todayticket.de, Todaytikets.de). Occupied typo domains might cost you 5 - 8% of your precious (organic) type-in-traffic. Professional domain grabbers will register all the variations of your name that you can imagine, forward the traffic to advertising sites and earn money with your reputation.
Your domain is taken? Find the owners contact details (www.whois.com) and send him an email – chances are that they will sell if the domain is not in proper use. Furthermore check Sedo for corresponding sale offers. Unfortunately, the valuation of domain names is a science on its own.
3. Put „property“ into „intellectual property“
Next up you have to register your name as a trademark. Thereby, you have to choose between a DPMA (Germany only) and a community trademark (EU-wide). The fees depend on the number of thematic areas („Schutzklassen“) in which you are looking for trademark protection. DPMA trademarks start at 500 €, EU trademarks at 900 €. If you register your name through an IP lawyer, calculate approx. 2,000 - 5,000 € on top.
A trademark can be a word mark (the word „Todaytickets“) and/or a design mark (the Todaytickets logo). Most startups register a word mark, although it is good to have both. A design mark might be a good alternative if your name cannot be registered as a word mark (see also fantasy vs. generic names).
Is that all?
Fantasy names (e.g. Petobel) vs. generic names (e.g. Todaytickets)
Generally, fantasy names are a safer bet than names consisting of generic words. The latter are often not accepted by the trademark office („Fehlende Unterscheidungskraft“) and therefore hard to protect through intellectual property laws. The best alternative in this case is a design mark on a logo image that states the respective name. Besides, the chance that the domains are still available is much higher with fantasy names.
Country code domains (.de, .at, .ch) vs. generic domains (.com, .net, .info, .eu)
There is this myth that online businesses need the .com domain first and foremost. The truth is: most German internet users are typing „brandname + .de“ when looking for a (German-speaking) website. The usage of .com, .net etc. is not worth mentioning in Europe (except UK) when it comes to local businesses. Nevertheless, you should always try to get the .com as add-on for possible rollouts to English-speaking territories.
Examples for naming issues and difficult names:
Xing: The social network launched as "OpenBC". They noticed that "BC" is associated with "before Christ" in UK/US when thinking about rolling out cross-border. This resulted in expenses for the professional development of the name "Xing" and the respective (partly already taken) domains.
Mitsubishi Pajero: You probably know this one. The name of this SUV means is cursing in Spanish. Unsurprisingly, they had to rebrand for the respective markets.
Worth reconsidering: Cumonian? RapidRabbi.it? Oh, and Wix.com (just check the German comments on their Facebook page).