Client: “We’re working on a [insert industry sector here] merger / acquisition and we need a name. We (the deal team) thought we could do this ourselves but the lawyer’s just told us we can’t get the trademark on the name we like. Bad news is that the CEO wants the new name in time for announcement which is in two weeks. Oh, and, er … it would be great if we could have a cool ticker as well! Can you help?“
A pattern is emerging
We’ve had similar conversations three times in as many months. So, for our friends on deal teams, who are compelled to try their hand at naming, here are some pointers on the common naming pitfalls to avoid.
1. Agree naming criteria upfront – So at least when the CEO suggests naming the company after his favorite Californian mountain bike brand, you will have an objective basis for judgement.
2. It’s probably not in the dictionary – Don’t waste your time leafing through the dictionary. A real word is almost certain to be impossible to trademark, and securing the URL, if not impossible, will be extremely expensive.
3. Brainstorm 500+ alternatives – Don’t let anyone out of the room until you have at least that number. (And ideally, then double it!)
4. Don’t fall in love with any of them until you have run a basic trademark search. You can do this at http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks.
5. Still don’t fall in love with one until your lawyer has run an in-depth trademark search.
6. Don’t forget the URL and the ticker. Unless you have tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars to purchase the URL, finding an available .com can be a challenge. Yes, ideally you do want to shortlist names where the dot.com is available, but beware of ending up with an alphabet soup.
7. Check available ticker symbols. Likewise, now is also an ideal time to start thinking about a ticker symbol that either mirrors or at least synchs with the brand name. Best case scenario: you get a perfect match (VICI, ONTO). Rare, but possible!
8. Please run cultural checks in languages of the markets in which you operate. Remember Chevy’s “Nova” means ‘Doesn’t Go’ in Spanish.
Alternatively, call us anytime. Even if it’s Friday afternoon with only two weeks to go before announcement.