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Is This A Good Name For Your Project?

Names should be unique. They should be distinct. The should be yours.

If the answer to any of the following is not a ‘yes’ then no, you should not use the name for your project.

Again, every answer here should be yes.

  1. Did you Google the name?
  2. Did you check if the domain name was available?
  3. Did you make sure no one else is using it for a similar project?
  4. Did you check for trademarks and copyright conflicts?
  5. Did you check it against a five year old and made sure they don’t giggle?

Congratulations! You Have a Good Name! Congratulations! You Have a Good Name!

Maybe.

I do a lot of arguing with people over the idea of ‘how’ to name a project, because people want to make add-ons

For example, if you have written an add-on plugin for Microsoft Word, you can’t name your project “Microsoft Word Super Snazzy Map Add-On” but you can name it “Super Snazzy Map Add-On for Microsoft Word.”

Using a name like “My Product for Other Product” is something I consider common sense. Consider the example of Keurig. If you made an eco-friendly brew cup, you could market it “EcoBrew Pod for Keurig” but you could NOT attempt to market it as “Keurig EcoBrew Pod.” The latter implies a direct relationship to Keurig and may be against the law in some countries.

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Being Original Is Hard Being Original Is Hard

I don’t mean to dismiss this. It’s hard to come up with a name that is original, descriptive, and unique. It gets harder and harder every day. Consider that a number of today’s companies seem to have ripped their logo out of a 1989 design book

The Beats logo on the right compared to one found in the 1989 design book Tweeted by Spencer Chen.
The Beats logo on the right compared to one found in the 1989 design book Tweeted by Spencer Chen.

Now we have long accepted in logos the limitation of language, letters, and combinations. It’s probably not theft, but it’s something you have to be aware of when a new project is named. Similarly, we accept the fact that naming something that is at once unique while still displaying your own flare is problematic.

I can’t offer you an answer that will fit everything, but I can offer you this. When you pick a name for your project, regardless of if you’re the big fish or the little one, it’s your responsibility to check if something even possibly related is already there. If you happen to name things at the same time, that’s an honest mistake, but if you know better going in, don’t be the bad guy.

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What About The Bad Guy? What About The Bad Guy?

What happens, though, if a year or three down the line, you get an email telling you that your product is infringing on trademarks?

You have two choices:

  1. Fight
  2. Flight

There are weird issues in the US with Generic Trademarks. Like did you know heroin, thermos, and aspirin are genericized? That means we use the words ubiquitously to mean the general concept of ‘a thermos bottle’ or ‘that horrible drug’ without reference to the trademark holders.

That said, there are terms that are not generic, and yet we use them similarly. Band-Aid, Kleenex, Post-It, and Google. Yes. Google. Google actually has gone to the point of downranking you for terms like ‘googling it’ because they want to protect their brands.

So what happens when you get that email from Johnson & Johnson, telling you that your product “Mika’s Band-Aid for WordPress” is a trademark violation?

Fight or flight.

You can argue that no one would logically think that ‘band-aid’ in this case would ever be confused for their product. Or you can say “Oops, my bad. I was totally trying to leverage the term band-aid.” You can also ask them “Are there circumstances in which I can rebrand this so as to make it clear I’m not intending to violate your trademark while not losing the ground I’ve made with my product?”

I will suggest, if you chose to fight, to get a lawyer who specializes in trademark law.