How can business owners in Florida pick the name that is just right for a new business? How can you avoid names that are already in use? If you intend to do business online, will a similar domain name be available? Will your business name qualify for trademark protection? Keep reading, because naming a new business is a bit more complicated than most people think.

If you are starting up a new business in Central Florida or Pennsylvania, you must be thoughtful and meticulous when you choose a business name to make sure that the name itself – or something very similar – is not already being used by some other existing business. An experienced central Florida business attorney can help.

Why is it so imperative to do comprehensive research when you choose a name for a business? Even if you do not intentionally mean to step on anyone else’s rights, choosing a business name that is already being used could put you on the wrong end of a trademark infringement lawsuit, and that could cost you substantially.

HOW CAN YOU AVOID A LEGAL DISPUTE OVER A BUSINESS NAME?

Moreover, you do not want to file legal documents or start marketing and advertising campaigns only to learn later that you will have to change the name of your already-in-operation business and basically start over from scratch. How can you avoid an unnecessary legal dispute over the name of your new business?

First, select a couple of variations on the name that you’ve chosen to use. Give yourself some options in case any of the variations are already being used by another business. Your next step will be to conduct a name availability search on the Florida Department of State’s website to make sure that the name is not already registered by another business operating in Florida.

With more than two million “active business entities” in the state of Florida as of 2017, you may have to be somewhat creative when choosing a name for a new business. An experienced central Florida business attorney can help you conduct a name availability search and address any of your legal concerns about naming a new business.

HOW CAN AN ATTORNEY HELP WITH NAMING YOUR BUSINESS?

In fact, putting an experienced business lawyer on your team from the very beginning of your business is one of the smartest moves that a new business owner can make. If the business name that you choose is entitled to trademark protection, an experienced central Florida business attorney can also help you register your business name as a trademark.

Because of the risk of trademark infringement, you should understand precisely what a trademark is. A trademark is a word, phrase, or symbol that identifies a business and distinguishes it from other businesses. While you must take care to avoid a trademark infringement lawsuit, trademark law also prevents other businesses from using names or symbols that are apt to be confused with your own.

Protecting yourself from a trademark infringement lawsuit is the most important aspect of naming a business. Trademark infringement lawsuits arise when someone uses a business name that is similar or identical to a business name that is already in use – and especially when the newer operation is in the same line of business.

You don’t want your own customers or clients confused by a name that is similar to a competitor’s name. Moreover, you do not want a judge ordering you to rename your already-operational business. The cost and disruption involved with involuntarily renaming a business is something that most small and mid-sized businesses simply cannot afford.

WHAT IS A “FICTITIOUS” NAME? AND WHAT IS A “DOMAIN” NAME?

To make things even more complicated, there’s sometimes some confusion about the names that businesses use. Exactly how is a business name or “business entity” name distinct from a “fictitious” name or a “domain” name? A business entity name is the formal, legal name of the business – the name that a Florida business will register with the Florida Department of State.

Registering a “fictitious” name allows you to also use that name as well as the formal legal name of the business. However, registering a fictitious name does not give you the name’s legal ownership or give you the exclusive right to use that fictitious name. There is a $50 processing fee to register a fictitious name in Florida.

A “domain” name is your website’s internet address. Determining if a domain name is available probably won’t require an attorney’s help – plenty of help is available from online sources like Google and GoDaddy. Still, your domain name is critically important. Most businesses quite reasonably want a domain name that includes the business name – something like Walmart.com or McDonalds.com.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A NAME FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

What else is crucial when naming a business? You don’t want a long or difficult name – you need a name that’s instantly recognizable and rolls easily off the tongue. You also must consider the future. You probably shouldn’t name your company “Titusville Sprockets” if you intend to expand beyond Titusville or manufacture other items in addition to sprockets.

The experts at Entrepreneur magazine offer these additional tips:

– Choose a name that appeals not only to you but also to the customers you want to attract.
– Choose a comforting or familiar name that will generate a positive emotional response.
– Stay away from cute puns and inside jokes that only you understand.
– Don’t use the word “Inc.” unless the business is actually incorporated.

IF YOU HIRE AN EXPERT, WHAT CAN A BUSINESS NAME COST?

Remember – the more your name says about your business, the less you have to explain. If you’re stumped and can’t think of a good business name, you can always take the problem to a “naming expert.” A Madison Avenue agency may charge up to $80,000 to develop a name, but that figure includes graphic design and other work, according to Laurel Sutton of Catchword Branding, a firm that’s been naming companies for two decades.

But if you balk at the idea of spending $80,000 for a name for your business, a Florida business lawyer can help you search for a name, register a name, and obtain trademark protection – as well as help you with articles of incorporation and the other needs of a new business – for considerably less. If you’re starting up a new business or considering a start-up, get the legal advice and insights you need – from the beginning.