What's in a Name?

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It's one of those things that you know, but it's rarely front of mind. You never think about it, but you're bombarded by it daily. A NAME embodies a whole effort.

When you reference your efforts in business--whether for profit or non-profit--at a certain time you use a name, or a symbol, or a sound or something else to identify those efforts (i.e., a "NAME"). Unilever does. UNICEF does, too.

You see, that NAME may tell people your professional association certifies a product, it may tell folks you made a product or you offer a service, or it may be a way for you to communicate to others what your values are. The NAME identifies the technology, function, design, lifestyle, and sociocultural substance of your effort and resulting goods and services. For better or worse.

Simply using that NAME is a definite investment in that name. You want to have confidence in that NAME. That NAME is your trademark. Avoid conflicts.

It can be hard to have a warehouse filled with widgets that you cannot sell because of trademark liability. Can you get the trademark off the product, and at what cost? Or maybe your App has been downloaded thousands of times under a certain NAME. Or you've invested thousands in your marketing plan, design, and e-commerce site. What do you do then? Or perhaps your NAME is particularly difficult and/or expensive to protect. Just a NAME can throw a wrench in the works of your efforts.

Avoid investing in a NAME (or IP, generally) that you may need to change later. Save money on: product R&D; engineering; multimedia and social media campaigns; SEO; marketing and advertising; and design of all types (e.g., product, logo, retail location, restaurant, Web site, etc.).

Understand and be deliberate in your NAME. In the interest of building value and goodwill in that NAME, consider your right to use the NAME or any possible issues that could come up if you use it. That NAME will embody and represent your work. (There's a reason they call it "branding.")

If it doesn't matter to you, fine. Reach out when it comes up. If it does matter--and it does--consider your options and weigh them against resources, near-term plans, long-term plans, and your business objectives. It's all in a NAME.

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WILLIAM R. SAMUELS
212-206-9399
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