Naming a new Product

Finding a new name for a company or a new product is usually not that easy. In order to be successful, there are a few rules to be observed and, in particular, to resist an obvious temptation.

No question, brands are important. Good brands are even more important. In a globalized world more than ever. But what makes a brand good? The essence of a good brand comes from within. Just like parents who teach their child the right character traits, a company also strives to create positive associations with its brand such as quality, sustainability, success, innovation. These and many other good characteristics should come to the mind of the customer or potential customer when they perceive the brand.

Usually, one has to work hard to achieve such a status. But at the very beginning there is a no less important decision: just like expectant parents, entrepreneurs must first find a name for their “child”. This can be the name of the company itself, or the name of a new product.

Just as every child is special to its parents, the new name should stand out from the crowd. Finding such a special name often proves to be not so easy in practice. Not every entrepreneur is as lucky as the car rental company Erwin Sixt to have a last name that could not have been created better by any branding agency. Agencies and brand inventors usually do a very good job and many a famous product owes its name to a creative, professional creation process. However, the effort is usually high and the costs are usually high as well. It is therefore understandable that many companies or future entrepreneurs start by doing their own work and try to find a good name. After all, no one knows his child better than the parents and no one knows better what is to become of the creature when it grows up. Many well-known brands have already been created this way.

Anyone who wants to ensure that their brand remains unique, is naturally anxious to protect it. As a rule, only an entry in the register of a trademark office provides the means to prohibit others from using an identical or similar name. And this is exactly the point that causes a not exactly rare situation when creating new trademarks. Just like the registrar, who has to tell parents that German law does not necessarily intend to accept a name of a female dragon rider borrowed from modern fantasy series as a child’s name, lawyers often have to tell their no less disappointed clients that the desired name found through long decision-making processes may be beautiful, but unfortunately cannot be protected or used as a trademark. There are usually two reasons for this: On the one hand, it is possible that the name is already protected for identical or similar goods or services. On the other hand, the obstacle often arises that the name as such is not even registrable.

There are two main recommendations:

To constantly search for possible earlier signs in the fluent trademark search process is very time-consuming and not exactly conducive to creativity. Even if there is a lot to be said for concentrating on one sign, you never know whether others have had similar ideas. It is therefore advisable to come up with several names at once and then pass on a list of four to a maximum of eight signs to the trademark attorney for a first preliminary search. Such searches can be carried out relatively quickly, even in several countries, and the effort is also manageable from the cost side. Once the results are available, one can continue with the released favourites and possibly find variants to them. Very often the research results even provide creative suggestions.

The number of potentially conflicting marks and the question whether the sign is eligible for protection at all depends, of course, very much on the components of the name itself. There is often the temptation to refer directly to the product or service with the name itself. However, if a name is formed from words taken from the general vocabulary, there is a relatively high probability that such or similar signs already exist. The same applies to terms from the English language (Anglicisms are still very popular) and often also to Latin words. In particular, if the words are based on the product itself, i.e. describe its intended use, materials or other features, the probability is high that similar signs are already protected for third parties. If the word elements are even plainly descriptive, it will be difficult or even impossible to convince the examiner of the Trademark Office that the signs are registrable. If, however, one absolutely wants to lean on a descriptive term, small tricks will help, for example variations at the beginning or end of the word. The trademark “Lieferando” is a very nice example of this. After all, the well-known delivery service has succeeded in protecting the sign as a word mark despite its descriptive connotations. The golden rule is: the more imaginative the name, the less likely the sign already exists and the greater the chance that the sign will be registered.

  • Achim Herbertz

    Dr. Achim Herbertz

    • Lawyer specialising
    • Intellectual property rights