Criteria of a good brand name – 3

This is the last installment of the naming trilogy. Previously we discussed naming criteria such as meaning and strategic fit. Today, we will focus on legal availability.

Unless you own and trademark your brand name, it is not yours. I advice my clients not to get caught too much on domain availability. There are creative ways to get around domain issues.  However, legal availability is a different beast. You should start by hiring a trademark attorney. Talk to your brand strategist. He/she might recommend you one.

Usually, trademark attorneys advise that brand names should be sufficiently distinctive to be protectable under trademark law. For instance, for legal purposes, names such as Exxon and TiVo are more appropriate. These are intrinsically distinctive names.

While distinctiveness is an important criteria, be aware that intrinsically weak names (e.g. Apple), may acquire trademark strength after years of promotion. Those names would receive equally broad legal protection as distinctive names. Would you mess with Microsoft Windows? In this case the distinctiveness is acquired.

What you should know is that whether trademark strength is acquired or intrinsic or a combination of both, stronger names receive broader protection both in terms of similarity between names and similarities of products of industries. Could you sell Kodak soup?

Today’s actionable tip: If your brand will be marketed abroad, make sure your attorney has relevant experience. When building in your project plan, always factor in enough time for legal surprises. It is very difficult to secure a brand name.

I hope you enjoyed this little series. Why don’t you tell me which of the three criteria is more important? Memorability, strategic fit or legal protection?

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