Return on Innovation®



February 22, 2024

In today’s hyper-competitive world, a good brand name right out of the gate is a must for any fledgling business.  Everybody wants to be the next Xerox or Kodak of the trademark world, with a word that become synonymous with a particular product or service, but how do you do that when almost 100 million trademark applications have been filed in the United States alone to date?  Let’s examine some tips for coming up with your UNIQUE brand name.

1. Make it personal. We’ve all heard of the luxury brand of clothing and accessories, Dolce & Gabbana.  But did you know that this brand is simply the surnames of its two founders and designers, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana?  This is an extreme example of making a brand name personal, of course, but you can always extend this same logic to your own brand:  What is personal to me?  What means something to me?  Do you love your dog’s name and want to name a coffee company after her?  That’s what Barstool’s Dan Katz did with “Stella Blue Coffee”.  Stella Blue, his dog, has nothing to do with his coffee products (we hope!), but he wisely chose her to be the namesake and the adorable face of his beloved coffee brand.  Make it from the heart like this, and you will rarely miss!

2. Make it random. Sure, it’s a yummy fruit and makes great horse treats, but before the 1980’s…was it ever a computer?!  Nope.  And that fact makes “Apple” an incredibly good brand name for computers.  Prior to the arrival of Apple computers on the market, there was no relationship whatsoever between apples and computers – making the brand name of “Apple” perfect for Steve Jobs’ fledgling company and its computers.  In the trademark world, the linkage of “apple” with computer technology was, in the 1980’s, completely random.  We want such randomness when we are searching for a great company or brand name, as this makes it more likely that your mark will indeed be trademarkable.

3. Mix it up. Make up a new word.  If someone says “please Xerox this for me”, they of course mean “make me a photocopy of this, please”.  The company name of “Xerox” comes from the Greek root words that mean “dry writing” – but the extra “x” at the end takes the root word “xero” and makes it into a distinctive and unique brand name.  Today, everyone knows that “to Xerox” something means “to make a photocopy” – and this is the goal with any great brand name.  So mix up what you have or what you love or, as the Xerox company did, what you are doing, and play around with spellings and appearances of the words/phrases, etc.  Make it as unique as you and your new brand!

4. Avoid geographical references. Geographical references are not trademarkable under the USPTO standards.  Even though your brand name might be “New York XYZ” and you’ve been in business and using this name for decades, it’s still not going to fly with the USPTO if you file that trademark application.  Remove the geographic references if you want a lasting brand name.

5. Don’t just describe what you are doing or selling. “Tennis Shoe Store” would be a good example of this “merely descriptive” style of business name.  Do more than simply describe what you are doing or selling – make it about your brand.  No one calls Nike “the tennis shoe company” because they’re simply NIKE.  Your brand name should similarly set you apart from other “Tennis Shoe Store” brands.  In Nike’s case, the brand is named after the Greek goddess of victory – Nike.  Bake the “victory” right into your brand name and let folks know off the top that you aren’t just selling tennis shoes, for example; you’re selling victorious tennis shoes!