There was an article today in Investment News talking about the problems of naming a business in the financial services arena. It seems that a guy named Sid Blum had been running his own firm, GreenLight Fee Only Advisors, for more than three years when in April he received a threatening legal letter from Greenlight Capital Inc., the hedge fund led by legendary short-seller David Einhorn. In sum, Sid pressed his suit to keep his name, lost and spent a lot of dough on lawyers. And at no point did he talk to anyone who does naming that might have steered him clear and saved him beaucoup bucks in the end.
Naming. It seems like such a simple thing to do. After all what’s in a name? Years ago, before many of you were born, you figured out a name, printed stationary and you were done. If Mike Meyer opened up a Meyer’s Shoes in Indiana, and Sidney Meyer (no relation to Mike) opened up a Meyer’s Shoes in Alabama, they would not have known about each other or even cared. Now in modern times, the internet has changed all that forever. Now if Harry Meyer wants to open up a Meyer’s Shoes or a Meyers Footware or Meyers Slippers in Philly, he most likely will not be allowed to IF either Sidney or Mike registered their trademark and secured a url. Now Harry is going to have to do some fancy footwork.
Naming exercises can go for as high as a quarter of a million dollars if it involves an international search and if it is necessary to purchase multiple urls. More often than not our Harry Meyer is going to be forced to look at names that are either a bit crazy or made up like hoopdeedo or combinations of words like Meyoes (Meyers Shoes—and if you don’t think this ever happens, think again). And often these names—strange as they may seem—form a first impression to a viewer. Would you ever buy wingtips from a store named Hoopdedoo? You might from Meyer’s Shoes, but you most certainly would not from the former.
So for the sake of argument Harry was able to secure the url for Meyers Footware and decided to develop his brand using that moniker. Well—he still needs a lawyer to make sure that that name is free and clear. Probably 90% of the lawyers out there would nix that name if there is another Meyers or Mayers or Meiers or MyOrs in that category that might have a trademark that could cause confusion in the market. Now if Harry wants to open up a computer software company called Meyers Shoes—he probably would not have a problem.
Lets also say that Sidney in Alabama has been in business selling shoes for 60 years under the name Meyers Shoe, even if Sid did not apply for a trademark (who knew about that then?!) he has been doing business under Meyer’s shoes for generations and has first dibs. So even if he does not own the trademark you may still be in trouble.
As a firm that does naming we know how time consuming and expensive this exercise can be. Sitting with 3 or 4 windows open on our computers, one connected to USPTO, one to go-daddy.com as a start to see if the url is available and who owns it, one open to Wikipedia—which comes in handy when you want to research arcane information about shoes—or look at the derivation of the name Meyer, and one open to a blank document in Microsoft Office waiting for brilliant names to appear. And sometimes you nail it, and sometimes it takes endless rounds of sleuthing to find the needle in the haystack—the name that is available, that has a free and clear status on USPTO, has a good url and does not damage your brand, like hoopdeedo.com.
Oh and by the way, hoopdeedo.com is taken!