What’s In A Name? Potential Pitfalls.

Kori Stanton’s online cookie business seemed to be off to a promising start last spring when its goodies were featured on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

But, according to The Wall Street Journal, the free national publicity had one unexpected and unwelcome consequence: A company with a different but similar name threatened Stanton with a trademark-infringement lawsuit.

The website was available,” says Stanton of the online address for her New York-based venture’s original name. For this reason, she says she didn’t foresee any problems. Though she was able to dodge the legal bullet by picking a new moniker, e.e. cookies, the former stay-at-home mom says the error cost her around $11,000 in wasted marketing materials and incorporation fees.

To test the strength and originality of a name, Larry Chiagouris, a professor of marketing at the Lubin School of Business at Pace University, recommends that entrepreneurs ask consumers in their target market to offer opinions on it. You can use informal surveys, for instance.

“The name has to convey to people some idea of what the business is,” he says.

Chiagouris also suggests looking up a potential name online and checking several pages of search-engine results for businesses with the same or a similar name. For businesses that serve a specific geographic area, include the location’s ZIP Code in searches, he adds.

Finally, if your budget permits, you might consider hiring an attorney with expertise in using trademark databases to gain an extra layer of protection, Chiagouris says. “Dig deep.”

Photo by e.e. cookies.

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