April 14, 2008
Shared Names Breed Kinship—But Only If Your Name is NOT Your Brand
The New York Times reported last week on an interesting side effect of the now commonplace practice of ego surfing (looking yourself up in Google). People are making friends with their Googlegängers for the same reason women named Virginia move to Virginia: we have a natural affinity for people, places, and things that share our names.
Well, usually. If your namesake happens to be a porn star, you might not be so amused. And if your name is your brand, you might feel just as annoyed by the existence of Googlegängers as record company Apple Corps Ltd did when Apple Inc. (then Apple Computer Inc.) decided to go into the music-selling business.
A company can trademark its brand name and defend it against infringement and domain squatting, within reason, anyway. Apple Inc. challenges aspiring new brand name trademarks with impartial ruthlessness.
But you can’t trademark your own personal name, and you’re not likely to get very far if you accuse someone else who has as much right to the name as you do of domain squatting in order to cash in on your success, unless you are already far more famous than they are.
So if you’re not fortunate enough to be the only person with your personal name to show up in Google, or at the very least the first one to register that name as a domain, you might be better off giving your company a unique, memorable brand name. That gives you a chance to trademark it, grab the “.com” version, and establish your brand.
What’s more, creating a strong association between your name and your company’s helps distinguish you from your Googlegängers when friends and family are trying to find you online.
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