Guide to Selecting a Brandable Domain Name – Clearance, Free, and Trademarks.

GUIDE TO FINDING A BRANDABLE DOMAIN NAME FOR YOUR BUSINESS

TRY TO FIND A FREE DOMAIN NAME FIRST

Even though I sell domain names on my own website, I always tell people to try and locate a free domain name first. By that I mean either a name that is dropping or just costs the standard registration fee. I’ve discovered some pretty good free domains for a few recent business ventures, and if you do your homework, you’ll feel much more comfortable paying for a name if that’s the way you want to go. Of course, you might want to make an impulse buy if your time is quite valuable.

I advise dividing the search into distinct steps.

First: Identify words and concepts related to the business you intend to enter.

Recently, I began a website for a product connected to bankruptcy. For that, I was forced to use “bankruptcy” as a keyword. However, other endeavors may have many words naturally associated with them, such as legacy, wealth management, guidance, protection, and others. I suggest checking out industry directories and an unabridged thesaurus to discover options.

Words related to qualities and specific industries can help generate valuable root words. For example, combining “lega” with various suffixes might be brandable as well as evocative of the original concept. “Legatus Group” has a solid, reliable sound and is, in fact, a successful financial planning firm.

Second: Mix ideas, concepts and inspirational thoughts

Remember some of the more common endings that can finish off a standard word; -ly, -sy, -a, -io, -ia, -us, -om, and -o. Perhaps you can come up with others. I would begin by adding these to the end of the words you thought of in step 1.

Words connected to industries and specific qualities also have their association to general roots. To use the example from above, “lega” is a brandable root used with multiple suffixes, but still implies the original idea. Legatus Group is the name of a respected financial planning firm. Several variations of that name are taken.

To find out about availability, you can do a bulk list at GoDaddy, which is a reliable registrar and is able to generate many decent suggestions when a particular name is not available.

Third: Experiment with some generators.

Don’t spend too much time on step 2 because there are quite a few domain name generators available. Most are free and work very well.

The one I routinely begin with is “lean domain search.” It compares whatever you enter with whatever is currently available. Available names are from a list of popular words and suffixes of registered domains. I discovered “bankruptcybase.com” and “bingeout.com” with the lean domain search.

I prefer lean because it lets you to focus on actual combinations of words. I honestly don’t like to exceed two words in a domain name, with the possible exception of the use of tiny prepositions, pronouns and two-letter words in the middle (go, of, my, etc.), like foundmyfitness. Prepositions can often sound rather cheesy, but running “my+a related keyword” through the lean selection process can reveal catchy phrases.

Fourth: Try to Catch Something.

Finding a dropping or expiring domain name will usually cost you more than the standard registration fee. There might be an auction but usually you’ll end up paying from 5 to 35 percent of the market price. It’s a smart way to unearth quality domains at a nice price. Unfortunately, only a few effective domain names drop, so selections can be very limited. I purchase domains every week and have built up an inventory of good ones.

This method costs both time and money, plus you will need to acquire a drop tool like domcop.com, which I use. You merely enter your constraints into the advanced search box and you’ll be able to view all the domains available. Remember to enter a maximum price of 70. That way, you’ll only see domains that are really dropping.

Dropping domains are available in two categories: pre-drop auctions are located at the registrar where the domains reside. These tend to be very reliable. I don’t bid on a name until the auction is about to expire. People look for domains with bids so they don’t have to spend time searching for the really good ones. I have personally started many a bidding war on auction sites.

Real drops involve a domain lapse. At that point, drop-catch sites like dropcatch.com, snapnames, or pool.com transmit automated requests to register it. It’s first-come, first-served, but when the name has multiple bidders, there will be an auction.

That’s a fast guide to finding and acquiring a free domain name. Before registering a domain, try to perform a clearance and then consider trademarks. That way you won’t run into complications later on.

PERFORM A DOMAIN CLEARANCE

Risk management concept, arrow hitting an apple on a businessman’s head

Before ever purchasing a domain name, you should do two things: investigate the backlink profile and the history, and then check the status of its trademark. These steps are performed first because they are simple and fast and will allow you to stop early in the process if something is not right.

For example, for the first step it’s possible to use the Way Back Machine, or a similar tool, in order to view images of the particular website at different points in the past. Tools like these work very effectively on home pages, but they often bring up valuable interior content too. What you’re looking for are typical spam usage like get-rich-quick, steroids and pornographic sites.

The goal is to find professionally constructed website. That way, you’ll have the advantage of effective SEO effects and the benefits of aging. This is not a make-or-break step though, because if you are looking for an aged domain that has multiple links then your name choices will be limited. At this point just keep an eye out for potentially negative site usage and spammy sites.

Remember to save all screenshots and log all former uses of the name for the purposes of your complete trademark search.

The second step involves an examination of the site’s backlink profile. A “clean” profile usually indicates that the domain is a safe one. If you want to be a bit more thorough you can use the free services available at Majestic and Open Site Explorer. Watch for “no results” or low scores. That’s good news, indicating a relatively clean profile.

If you’re willing to spend a small amount of money, Fiverr vendors offer in-depth backlink profile searches.

Luck Plays No Role in This Process

Once you’re to this juncture of your investigation, and want to look at trademark status, note that progressing further will be more complicated. When it comes to searches like these, don’t rely on luck. It’s all about diligence and patience.

TRADEMARKS AND YOUR NEW NAME

NOTE: Ask us for a “reservation period” if you want to take some time to consult a qualified trademark attorney. The information below is solely for the purpose of general information. If you need or want legal advice, speak with a licensed trademark attorney. This site, BRANDABLEHQ, is not able to warrant any particular names for suitability as trademarks.

Registration does not legally establish a trademark. They are established by use. When a mark owner ceases using it, the trademark is lost. The legal environment for trademarks was derived from what is known as British Common Law, a realm of jurisprudence springing from historic English Law that governed unfair competition. As such, the topic is not black-and-white, but falls under an irregular, hodge-podge of sometimes obscure regulations. 

Cool picture of a cat.

How much geographic area does a trademark cover?

Nations grant trademarks, but there is a sort of coalition of member countries working under the Madrid Protocol. Note that the U.S. is NOT a member of that organization. National registration will usually cover an entire nation if the use covers multiple states for example in the United States.

How can I search to find out whether trademark issues exist?

Such investigations have a time-expense tradeoff because trademarks are primarily established by usage.

Begin with Google, a free and fairly comprehensive search tool that rivals more formal avenues like the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and sites like Trademarkia. When buying a domain name, look for other uses of the name online. Keep in mind that a company might be using the name for a product that is not a trademark.

After Google, visit Trademarkia and the Tess system within the USPTO site. Watch for any live entries but remember that non-live, or “dead” entries still might be operational as trademarks. In cases like that, it usually means the owner did not do all the proper filings.

Depending on your budget and how badly you want a clear trademark, think about purchasing an opinion letter along with a professional search. There are also paid professionals who will search state trademark offices and various business directories.

There is no such thing, regardless of what someone might tell you, of a 100 percent, iron-clad effective trademark search. For example, there could be a small restaurant called Vitono123 Pizza operating as an unincorporated “mom-and-pop” sole proprietorship, no social media footprint, and without a business license. If you set up a major company called Vitono123 Pizza, selling online gluten-free pizza mix, the mom-and-pop pizzeria would legally be able to continue using their name based upon pre-existing usage.

On my own site I am the owner of almost every name listed, so there is never a problem if you want to wait up to five days before the push to conduct a thorough, professional trademark search or other due diligence tasks.

I’ll be happy to give you a refund before transferring ownership of the domain if you discover a problem with the name. If you shop for names elsewhere, remember to ask the seller to give you time to do a search. Sometimes you can purchase a “5-day option” for a nominal fee. Most trademark searches take no longer than three days to do.

Can I still use a name even if someone else has a trademark on it?

Remember that trademarks are not patents, where the first person to file is granted exclusive usage rights. Trademarks are much different. For example, Delta Banks, Delta Faucets, and Delta Airlines all use the same name but have no corporate relationship.

You’re usually on safe legal ground if your use of a name does not create “substantial likelihood of confusion,” based on a famous legal precedent case from 1961, formally known as Polaroid Corp. v. Polaroid Elecs. Corp. [287 F.2d 492 (2d Cir. 1961)]. You need to register the mark in all classes where you want the advantage of registration, but the mere fact of registration in a different class is no guarantee of protection from the “confusion” guideline.

In addition to the likelihood of confusion, there are other legal tests like sophistication of consumers, actual confusion, intent, and more.

If you have any feeling, based on common sense, that your new name might cause confusion, be sure to consult a trademark lawyer before using the name.

Generic – A term can be used as a synonym, and even misspelled versions are considered generic.

Descriptive – Describes a particular quality of a product or good, and requires a definitive showing of a secondary or alternative meaning.

Suggestive – Requires the use of human imagination, and varies between descriptive and fanciful. The Citibank examples are sort of a middle ground.

Foreign terms and words are taken as if they were English. Thus, “pain” is treated as if it is “bread,” even though the word itself is French.