How To Tell A Client They Can't Have The ONE Name They Really, Really Want

Finding a proprietary name can be difficult, and no one likes to have to tell a client that their favorite name can't be theirs. Here's how we do it.

Not unlike the famed “compliment sandwich” - compliment, constructive criticism, compliment - if you're an IP attorney, it can be helpful to deliver the “bad news” that a name has failed (or is likely to fail) trademark screening with a positive next step. “You can’t have XXX, but there’s a silver lining here -- we’ll find you a name that’s even BETTER.”In this situation, we recommend reminding clients that you’ve been practicing law for years, and that they’re not the first whose name failed to clear trademark. Perhaps share a “happy ending” story or two.

Then, help them appreciate WHY they don't want the name they can't have. Here are a few simple messages and examples we've found particularly effective. It is likely that clients will at this point begin brainstorming, asking you if variations of the name they wanted are likely to clear. In our experience, this is not the best use of anyone's time -- great names are unlikely to result.

So, the next step may be to suggest that they get professional help. Many people are unaware that there are actually individuals who make a living naming companies and products. Clients may think that their only options are to work with a big, expensive marketing or advertising agency, or to try to “DIY” it using an online contest platform or the like. Fortunately - for them and for us namers - that’s not the case.

If time is of the essence (as it so often is), reassure your clients that this process will not be painfully time-consuming. In most situations, for example, we can deliver a name in three weeks. If the project is more complicated, it may take a little longer -- but if that's the case, they’re likely avoiding a future headache and saving a huge amount of time and money in the long run by getting the brand architecture sorted out now. Good namers will deliver names that are pre-screened, so your job gets easier, too.

If you already have a trusted naming resource, great! But for those who don't, it may help for us to name-drop (pun intended) a little at this juncture. We’ve handled everything from naming startups and non-profits to wrangling a big, hairy, multi-year project creating the brand architecture for Visa. If you send your clients our way, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve sent them to the best.

We’ll happily provide a free consultation to answer any questions they have; our goal will be to provide your clients with solid information and make YOU look good. Honestly, we are total word nerds, and we’re always thrilled to talk naming and branding. If we end up with a new naming client at the end of this conversation, bonus. If not, we expect that we will at least have convinced your client that a great name - one which clears trademark - IS possible.

Topics: guidance, naming