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September 2010The monthly newsletter by Felgall Pty Ltd

My Word

Choosing a Name

When you are first setting up a business web site it is important to choose the right name. There are actually two different aspects to names you need to consider.

The first consideration is what sort of business structure you intend to operate through. Here you basically have three choices:

  • operating under your own name
  • using a trading name
  • setting up a company

I am not going to suggest using a fourth option of setting up a company and then using a trading name since you ought to be able to set up the company with the appropriate name in the first place so as to no need a trading name as well.

The second aspect to names is the domain name you select for your web site. This will be at least in part dependent on which of the three options you choose as to how you intend to operate. Where you operate using a business name or company you will obviously want your domain name to be ither the same as the name you are operating under or to at least contain that name. Many country specific domain authorities will actually require that you have already registered a business or company name in order to be able to get the associated domain name. That effectively rules out the option of operating under your own name if you are going to set up a business web site in one of those countries.

There are far fewer rules as to who can get what with international domains and so you should be able to obtain just about any domain you like that isn't already taken if you are going to set up internationally regardless of which way you decide to operate. The only restriction with regard to choice of available names is that you can't pick one that is almost identical to an already established operation and then set up in competition with them in their own field as then they would have grounds for taking legal action against you - particularly if the name you are similar to is a registered business name, company, or trademark. You may not have such difficulties if you are operating in an entirely different field where there is no room for confusion between what you offer and what the others using similar domains offer.

Just how things will work out if you register a business or company in your country that has the same name as one in another country and then want to use the equivalent domain name to the one they are using except for the top level of the name (eg. .net instead of .com) will depend on a number of factors. It is still best avoided because you can't tell in advance what the outcome will be as if a conflict arises between the two businesses you can't be sure what the outcome will be. There have been situations where two companies established in different countries in different times in different industries have agreed to share the name but that is not necessarily a foregone conclusion and in many cases the earlier extablished of the two wil be able to claim sole right to the name (provided of course that they have actually been in operation using the name).

One example of two companies (one in England and one in the USA) decided (after much discussion) to agree to share a name are the two well known companies Apple: The English company was established during the early 1960s by Lennon and McCartney. The US company was established in the late 1970s by Jobs and Wozniak. Once the web became established in the 1990s there was a conflict between the two as to who should be allowed to use the name Apple. As one company is involved in music and te other is involved in computers there is little chance of confusing one for the other and so after much discussion between the two the English company agreed to allow the US company to share the name since it would be obvious as to what belonged to which. Don't expect that you can necessarily come along years after a company is already established (and has a worldwide reputation the way Apple does) and expect to be able to set up your own company with the same name and get the other company to agree to share the name. The US company in my example were just lucky that they were already well established in a totally different field before the name conflict arose.

If you are going to be producing products then you will also need to give them names. Where the product already has a generic name your name may just be that name with your business or company name tacked on the front. If you have to come up for a separate name for a new product then again you need to be careful to not select a name that is too close to product names already in use. For example the computer company Apple released a product they call the iPad. Now there are about a dozen other products also called an iPad but because each of those other products that already existed are completely different with no possibility for confusion with the Apple product the only potential for confusion is if someone were to order an iPad from a third party site without checking just exactly whose iPad it was referring to. Apple would be far more likely in this particular instance to run into problems with regards to a product already offered by another company that has a completely different name but where the two products have a very similar appearance and function. They are presumably hoping that the other company does not own sufficient patents and other rights over that particular technology to be able to cause them problems with regard to the product itself. Just because the original product was developed in China and has a different name doesn't mean that the possibility of legal action against Apple for copying the product is impossible.

Just exactly what name you choose isn't going to be so important provided that it is distinctive and not easily confused with someone else's name. In my particular case I decided to go with a company setup. The cheapest way to set up a company here is to purchase what is called a shelf company. At the time those in the business of setting up companies would set up dozens of them at the same time and then sell them once they were set up. The accountant organising the company purchase for me gave me a choice of three names and then bought me the company with the name closest to the one I chose that was still available at that time (presumably the exact name I chose had sold to someone else in between the accountant finding out what was available and making the purchase).

On Site

I had a strange request this month. First I was asked if I would like to review a book and then I was told that I couldn't. As the book was actually one that I had been originally approached to write and had pulled out of writing due to constraints on my time I thought it interesting that I now don't even get to compare what the final book ended up as compared to the original outline that I did prior to deciding I lacked the time. It did convince me to revisit the outline again and now I have lots of pages on JavaScript testing to add to my JavaScript site at Meanwhile I have been preparing more articles on SQL based on ideas I got from a book I reviewed last month.

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