Although not an exhaustive list, here are some important points to consider when checking whether your idea is available to use as a trading name for your business.
Each website is hosted by a server or collection of servers, which have what’s called an IP address. This is basically a unique number in the format 123.456.789.012, which points to the particular website in question.
Understandably IP addresses are difficult for us lowly humans to remember, so nice human-friendly domain names were created, for example geeksy.co.uk. These point to the IP address of the server hosting the website, meaning the address of a website is much easier to remember.
You can check the availability of a domain through a registrar such as 123reg. That said, we would recommend you engage a professional to actually register the domain on your behalf to ensure you don’t sign up for unnecessary services.
.co.uk / .com / .org / .net / .biz?
Let’s say for example, your business name is Widgetiser. Choosing between widgetiser.com, widgetiser.co.uk and the other extensions for your domain name is an important decision to make. Different extensions have different meanings to your potential customers.
Again, you should seek the advice of a professional to decide which extension is the right one for your business, but here’s some rough rules of thumb to keep in mind:
- The two most important extensions for UK businesses are .co.uk and .com – these should be your target when naming your business.
- If you are a UK business, you should try and choose a business name that allows you to register your .co.uk address.
- The most internationally recognised and valuable extension is the .com address. You should aim to get the .com for your business if possible although it’s tough because many have been registered already. This is particularly important if you ever want to trade internationally.
- Charities and not for profits tend to use .org, so you may irritate some people if you use a .org for a commercial enterprise – although it’s certainly not out of the question.
- Viable alternatives are .net and .biz although many people interpret these as small businesses and not as credible as.co.uk and .com addresses.
Although trademarking your business name is beyond the scope of this article, you should certainly check that the business name you’ve chosen isn’t a registered trademark of someone else – or you could end up in a dispute.
For checking UK trademarks, you can use the UK Intellectual Property Office’s Trade Mark Search.
If you intend to trade abroad now or in the future, you will also need to check if someone has trademarked your business name in the countries in which you wish to trade. You will need to find the relevant countries equivalent of the UK Intellectual Property Office and check with them.
To register a trademark, we’d recommend you consult the advice of a professional trademark attorney.
Social media platforms are becoming an important point of contact with your customers – be that LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ or any of the other social media sharing websites.
Having social media addresses with your brand name, such as facebook.com/widgetiser (continuing the example above), is crucial in achieving a consistent brand identity and making sure people can find you.
You can check the availability of pretty much all the relevant social media platforms in one fell swoop using NameChk.
Limited Company Name (UK)
Ok, so you might not be going limited straight away. But you might want form a company at some point in the future – or even reserve your name now. You can check if your company name is available with Companies House by using their web check service.
Finally, you should also check what Google results appear for your chosen name. Other businesses may not have registered your trademark but may still have sufficient copyright to challenge you if you do. Also, be watchful for negative associations that could come back to haunt you.
Have we missed anything? Please let us know in the comments below.