Digital Media Law Project

Naming a business

A trademark is a sign, mark, or indicator used by an individual, business, or organization to identify a product or service as its own and to distinguish the product or service from those of its competitors. A business name generally can be protected as a trademark under federal and state trademark law.

Trademark law is designed to avoid consumer confusion over the trademarks that businesses or other organizations use in connection with their goods and services. Stated briefly, trademark law makes it unlawful for a business to use a trademark (e.g., a slogan, a logo, a name) in connection with a good or service if that use is confusingly similar to another business’s use of a trademark. To see how this works, imagine a consumer – Sally. If Sally buys a Dell computer, she can be pretty sure that the computer was made by Dell Computer and nobody else. She can take Dell’s reputation into account without worrying that a knockoff company is making shoddy computers with the Dell logo on them because trademark law prohibits that kind of confusing commercial activity and it gives Dell the right to sue for money damages and an injunction if someone does it.

As a general rule, if someone in a similar field to yours is already using a particular business or organization name, you should not use it, nor should you use a name that would be confusingly similar. Traditionally, there was nothing to prevent someone from using a trademarked name in a completely unrelated field or industry (for instance, Delta Faucet and Delta Airlines) because there was no possibility that consumers would confuse one for the other. However, the emergence of something called anti-dilution law means that the owner of a famous trademark (it means pretty much what is sounds like) can prevent you from using it even in an unrelated industry. Therefore, it probably would not be a good idea to call a blog Kodak News or McDonald’sBlog, unless your website is actually about Kodak or McDonald’s (in which case you should read Using the Trademarks of Others section closely). Traditionally, the law also permitted multiple companies to use a given name in different geographical areas of the country, but the global nature of the Internet breaks down the importance of geographical isolation and makes it more likely that an Internet use of a name or trademark could be confusing regardless of where the brick-and-mortar businesses or organizations are physically located. Thus, you probably want to steer clear of a name that is the same or similar to a name used by someone else in your field, even if that person or organization is located far away from you.

The process of naming your business and securing trademark rights can be summarized in three basic points:

  1. Choose a name for your business. It should be distinctive, not generic, and should not be close to the name of anyone in a similar business. For details, please see the Naming Your Business: Choosing A Name Capable of Trademark Protection section.

  • Search for others using your chosen name or similar ones. You should search the Internet and federal and state trademark databases, at the very least. You should not use the name if someone in your field or a similar one is using it. You may be able to use the name if someone in an unrelated field is using it, but you should try not to use similar logos, styles, or colors. For details, please see the Naming Your Business: Searching for Trademarks of Others section.

  • Consider registering your chosen business name as a trademark. Registering a state and/or federal trademark has advantages. It is relatively cheap and easy to register a state trademark. Federal registration is more costly, but it is worth considering because of its nationwide effect. For details, please see the Securing Trademark Rights: Ownership and Federal Registration section.


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    We named it.

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    Super fresh, fun and likeable brand names and taglines.

    If you want to make instant fans of your brand, you need a love-at-first-sight brand name. Whether you have an appetite for creative name suggestions or clever company taglines, the brand name experts at Eat My Words have the experience to help you make a name for yourself. Company names, product names, service names. you name it! (Oh wait, we name it for you.)

    Unlike name development agencies and branding firms who churn out ridiculously contrived brand names that only linguists can decipher, Alexandra Watkins and her team of brand name experts give you likeable product names and company names that can be pronounced, spelled and understood by anyone. Even Siri.

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  • Blogger Shane Dowling jailed for contempt for naming Tim Worner’s alleged lovers

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    Naming a business Blogger Shane Dowling is serving a four-month prison sentence for contempt of court. Photo: YOUTUBE

    A rogue blogger who named two women accused of having affairs with Network Seven boss Tim Worner has been jailed for four months for contempt of court, after a judge found his conduct “borders on obsession”.

    In a judgment delivered on Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Ian Harrison said Shane Dowling “flagrantly” and “enthusiastically” breached non-publication orders in naming the women on his website.

    He was led from the court in handcuffs by three corrective services officers.

    The women, given the pseudonyms Jane Doe 1 and 2, were named in court documents during the height of the legal battle between Mr Worner and his former lover Amber Harrison.

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    Naming a business “It hasn’t been a stellar year,” says Seven West Media chief executive Tim Worner. Photo: Ben Rushton

    The women strenuously denied the allegations and their names were suppressed by the court ahead of their defamation proceedings.

    Supreme Court Justice Ian Harrison found Dowling guilty on March 15 of contempt of court after he flouted court orders to remove the names of the women from his website and refrain from re-publishing the allegations.

    The court heard Dowling had published fresh stories naming the women as recently as July 15.

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    During the sentencing on Thursday, Justice Harrison told Dowling: “If you are currently publishing matters on your phone . I’d ask you to stop.”

    “OK then,” Dowling replied.

    Justice Harrison said Dowling had “deliberately set out to disobey” the court’s orders.

    He said Dowling appeared to see himself as a “fierce proponent of free speech” and was “ferociously committed to the righteousness” of his views.

    Justice Harrison said Dowling’s “enthusiasm for the cause as he perceives it borders on obsession” but he was “nonetheless to my observation a man of some intelligence who doubtless appreciates the proper legal foundation for his contempt”.

    “It is regrettable that his written protestations elide self-righteous indignation with innocence,” he said of Dowling’s submissions to the court.

    Justice Harrison said it was an “available inference” that Dowling sought “to benefit from the publication of the . [women’s] names by attracting public interest to his website and by soliciting financial support”.

    “It is a further available conclusion that he seeks to draw attention to his defiance of the court orders, as a way to gain sympathy and notoriety or simply public attention, which he apparently perceives as being a benefit to him, perhaps because he considers it will increase his public profile,” he said.

    In submissions to the court, Dowling said he believed he would be classified “correctly” as a “political prisoner” by social media users if he was jailed.

    Dowling wrote that he had done “nothing more than any journalist does everyday [sic] around the country”, as the women’s names “were in legal documents”.

    But Justice Harrison said he had “done more” than journalists do on a daily basis and had disobeyed court orders to remove the offending articles.

    A spokesman for Seven said the women “had been falsely accused by Amber Harrison of having relationships with Tim Worner”.

    “The blogger himself had no defence or evidence to support his defamatory articles and didn’t check for accuracy and had no relevant defence as to why he breached the court’s orders,” the spokesman said.

    Naming a business



    Amazon is buying Whole Foods for $13.7 billion

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    Amazon is making a big bet on physical stores and the business of food.

    The online retail giant announced Friday that is buying organic grocery chain Whole Foods ( WFM ) for $13.7 billion in cash. The deal values Whole Foods at $42 a share, 27% higher than where the stock was trading Thursday.

    Amazon ( AMZN , Tech30) said Whole Foods stores will continue operating under that name as a separate unit of the company. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey will stay on to lead Whole Foods, which will keep its headquarters in Austin, Texas.

    The deal shows Amazon’s interest in moving into the business of operating traditional brick-and-mortar stores, even as many retailers that have been crippled by Amazon’s growth have announced a series of store closings.

    It also shows Amazon’s growing interest in groceries. The company has its own delivery service, AmazonFresh, and is experimenting with a “click and collect” model, letting customers buy groceries online, then pick them up in person.

    The supermarket business, like many other parts of retail, has been hit hard by increased competition from Amazon itself, as well as Walmart ( WMT ) .

    Grocery giant Kroger ( KR ) said Thursday that its profits for the year would be lower than Wall Street expected, sending its stock plunging nearly 20%.

    Then Kroger’s stock plummeted 13% further on Friday after the Amazon-Whole Foods detail was announced.

    Shares of other retailers with a big presence in groceries, such as Target ( TGT ) , Costco ( COST ) , SuperValu ( SVU ) and Sprouts ( SFM ) , plunged as well.

    And Walmart was down 5%, despite announcing another online commerce deal of its own Friday. It bought men’s apparel company Bonobos.

    But Amazon’s stock rose 3% on the news. Investors don’t seem too concerned by how much the company is spending. A warning of a possible credit downgrade by ratings agency S P Global Ratings didn’t hurt Amazon either.

    S P said that Amazon may need to take on more debt as a result of the acquisition. But Amazon finished the first quarter with $21.5 billion in cash and securities on its balance sheet — and only $7.7 billion in long-term debt.

    Amazon’s deal for Whole Foods also further demonstrates the financial might of the Jeff Bezos-led company, whose market value is greater than that of the 12 largest traditional general retailers combined.

    “Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy,” said Bezos.

    Whole Foods, founded in 1978, is widely credited with helping to make organic food go mainstream. The company now has about 87,000 employees and more than 460 stores — mostly in the U.S. But Whole Foods has also expanded to Canada and the U.K.

    The company has been moving aggressively in big cities, targeting millennial shoppers with a store format called 365 by Whole Foods Market that, like rival Trader Joe’s, has lower prices than the ones found at core Whole Foods stores.

    High prices, of course, have been a problem for Whole Foods. The company is often derisively referred to as Whole Paycheck since the company charges a pretty penny for spelt and quinoa.

    The company was accused of overcharging customers by regulators in New York City in 2015 and that had a huge negative impact on Whole Foods. Sales plunged for several quarters.

    And the company became the butt of jokes by late-night comedians. HBO’s John Oliver did a savage skit about the company’s high prices. (HBO, like CNNMoney, is owned by Time Warner.)

    Oliver ran a mock commercial showing, among other things, a block of ice with an avocado balanced on top for $25.99, a pomegranate that listened to NPR for $64.99, and tilapia wearing yoga pants for $84.99.

    Mackey eventually wound up apologizing to customers. But the damage was done.

    Sales growth at Whole Foods has slowed and profits have yet to return to levels before the price scandal. That may be one reason why Whole Foods was willing to sell to Amazon.

    It will be interesting to see if Amazon — which has a reputation for keeping prices low — will turn Whole Foods into more of a bargain retailer as well.

    It’s also worth noting that Whole Foods stock did not move much higher than $42 on Friday — the price that Amazon agreed to pay. That could be a sign that Wall Street does not expect a bidding war for the company that would push the sale price higher.

    So it looks like Bezos will inherit the bad PR baggage that comes with Whole Foods. I wonder if it’s too soon for people to ask Alexa where they can find stalks of asparagus in a bottle of water for $6.



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