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Choosing a business name

Your business name is a crucial part of your brand. Here’s where you’ll find tips and a great tool for deciding on that perfect name.

Unless you lend your own name to your business, choosing one can drain you of time, energy and patience. Whatever your business does, its name should:

  • be memorable
  • be unique
  • roll off the tongue
  • tell people what you do.

Tips on developing your unique selling point

Is your business name available?

Use ONECheck to see if your business name, web domain, trade mark and social media usernames are available — it only takes one search.

How to choose a name

Write a list of all the words you associate with your business. They could be about the products or services you want to provide, or the value of what you do.

You can make up words (Google, Facebook), join words together (YouTube), use phrases (TradeMe) or a name — your own (J Smith Plumbing) or invented (Häagen-Dazs).

Brainstorm

If you’re struggling to find a name that fits the bill, try this technique:

  1. Find a large wipeable board or a stack of Post-Its to write your ideas on.
  2. Set a time limit, eg five minutes, and write down every name that comes into your head, no matter how crazy or irrelevant they seem.
  3. Discard names you don’t like or don’t make sense for the business.
  4. Review what’s left and choose all the names you like.
  5. Repeat step 4 until you have a number you’d like to test, eg six.
  6. Test your chosen names. 
Do a thorough background check on names you like.

Do a thorough background check on names you like.

Avoid names too similar to ones already in use — you could run into legal troubles if you don’t.

Use ONECheck

Test

If you have a name in mind but aren’t sure if it’ll be suitable, or can’t decide between several names, test them on people.

A simple and effective way to do this is an A/B test. You’ll need at least two names to try and some people to test:  

  1. Take two names and ask people if they prefer A or B.
  2. Note the winner.
  3. Repeat stage 1-2 until you’ve tested all your names.
  4. Add up the scores and find the winner.
  5. If you still don’t like it, discard it and start again.

Is your name available?

Once you’ve found the perfect name, the next step is to find out if someone has beaten you to the punch and registered it.

Using ONECheck

ONECheck is a free tool that checks the availability of business names, web domains, trade marks and social media usernames in one search.

Simply enter the name and click Search. If it is not already in use, from the results you can:

  • reserve your business name
  • register your domain name
  • get started with your trade mark
  • create social media usernames.
ONECheck

It’s time to use our ONECheck tool

Your registered business name can be different to your trading name.

Your registered business name can be different to your trading name.

You can use anything for your trading name (the name you use publicly), but make sure you don’t infringe any trademarks or use restricted words.

If you use the same name as a registered company, especially one in the same field as you, they might have a case against you under the Fair Trading Act if they believe you are passing your business off as theirs. It’s best to use a name that hasn’t been registered with the NZ Companies Office if possible.

Ways to protect your name, brand and ideas

The steps below are text versions of the visual guide. It's aimed at people who use screen readers, or who prefer to take in information by reading.

Here are examples of ways you can protect your intellectual property (IP). Use several forms of protection to keep your IP even safer. Contact IPONZ if you have any questions.

Contacts address book

IPONZ freephone 0508 447 669

Trade mark

  • low registration effort
  • low registration cost
  • high protection level

A registered trade mark is the best way to protect your name and brand. The protection can last forever if you renew every 10 years.

  • Protects your brands in the marketplace. 
  • Most commonly a word or a logo. 
  • Register with IPONZ.

Helpful hint: You can’t register a word that is common in your industry. You could register the name ‘Milk’ as an architecture firm, but not for a milk product.

Trade marks (external link) — IPONZ

Helpful hint: Use ONECheck to check the availability of business names, web domains, trade marks, and social media usernames in one search.

ONECheck

Trade secret

  • medium protection level

Best practice is to not tell anyone about your secret recipe or process.

Helpful hint: Have good measures in place, such as confidentiality agreements and limiting staff access.

Copyright and other IP (external link)  — Employment Agreement Builder

 

Copyright

  • high protection level

For original works, including images, song lyrics and digital content.

  • You don’t have to register it. 
  • Can protect for up to 50 years after your death, depending on the type of work.

Helpful hint: Keep records when you create the work. Use the copyright symbol ©, the name of the owner and the year the work was created.

Copyright (external link) — IPONZ

Copyright and other IP (external link)  — Employment Agreement Builder

Company name registration

  • low registration effort
  • low registration cost
  • low protection level

Your brand name is a big asset. Think about using it as your registered company name.

  • Register with Companies Office. 
  • Renew annually.

Helpful hint: Use ONECheck to check the availability of business names, web domains, trade marks, and social media usernames in one search.

ONECheck

Design

  • medium registration effort
  • medium registration cost
  • medium protection level

For new and different visual appearance of a product.

  • How things look. 
  • Register with IPONZ. 
  • Can protect for up to 15 years.

Helpful hint: You can’t register a design if you’ve already gone public with your product, so watch your timing.

Designs (external link) — IPONZ

 

Patent

  • high registration effort
  • high registration cost
  • high protection level

For inventions of functionality or process.

  • What things do, how they do it, or how they’re made. 
  • Register with IPONZ. 
  • Can protect for up to 20 years.

Helpful hint: You can’t get a patent if you’ve already gone public with your invention, so watch your timing.

Patents (external link) — IPONZ

Web domain and social media

  • low registration effort
  • low registration cost
  • low protection level

Your name is a big asset.

  • Use it in a web address and on social media platforms so people can easily find you.
  • License through a private supplier.

Helpful hint: Use ONECheck to check the availability of business names, web domains, trade marks, and social media usernames in one search.

ONECheck

Choosing a business name

Plant variety rights (PVR)

  • high registration effort
  • high registration cost
  • high protection level

For new types of plant.

  • Register with IPONZ.
  • Can protect for up to 23 years.

Plant variety rights (external link) — IPONZ

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