What’s in a Brand Name?
As many of you know, I’ve been working hard on my new business. Since the beginning, I’ve been searching for the perfect name that captures the essence of what I’m trying to create. Something clear and simple, from which a brand could grow.
At the most basic level, my goal is to inspire people to spend time doing what they love. Instead of being a sideline observer, the product should inspire you to jump back in. The initial focus is on team sports such as football, softball, basketball, soccer, and hockey.
Ideas for names have been all over the map. “All Play” was one, “Real Sports” was another, “Sport Verse” a third. One day, while trying to explain my idea to my wife Keri, I caught myself saying “Instead of sitting around surfing the web or playing fantasy games, I want this thing to get you out there. I want to be out playing sports with my team mates, that’s what I enjoy… that’s my pastime.” Then it hit me: pastime. It’s simple, clear, brandable, and closely associated with leisure and recreation. It has a sweet ring to it that fits nicely in the category of social networks alongside Facebook and Twitter, which is exactly where I hope to be positioned someday. On the other hand, it is a commonly misspelled word (passtime, pasttime). However, I think its other strengths makeup for that weakness.
After selecting the name, I took several steps to secure rights to it.
I filed a trademark with the United States Patent Office (USPTO). Before I did this, I determined what category my product falls in and searched that category for potential conflicts. Everything looked clear, so I had LegalZoom file the trademark on my behalf with “intent to use”. Recently I got good news–the mark has been accepted and published to the Official Gazette. Soon I’ll receive a “Notice of Allowance” that will give me six months to file a “Statement of Use” that demonstrates the mark being used in commerce.
Internet Domain Name
I leased rights to the pastime.com domain. Getting this done required some careful negotiation. pastime.com is not actively used, but it isn’t readily available either. I learned the name was in fact for sale, and put in an offer to buy. The owner came back with a firm price that was more than I was willing to pay. We negotiated a lease-to-own arrangement that allows me to pay a reasonable amount now, and gives me the option to purchase at a later date. I needed to carefully design the terms for my situation–it’s too early to know if the business will gain traction, so it’s too early to invest a significant amount of money in an intangible asset. In the future, I’ll know where the business is headed and I’ll be able to make an informed decision on whether to purchase then.
Doing Business As (DBA) Trade Name
I registered “Pastime” as a trade name with the state of Florida. When I incorporated, I was unable to get “Pastime, LLC” because a “Pastime, Inc.” already exists. So my company name is actually “Pastime Connect, LLC”. However, my company can do business in Florida as “Pastime” because of the trade name. Furthermore, It has rights to the name “Pastime” in its category because of the trademark.
In my last company, we had a branding problem in the early days. Our company name “Interface21″ did not map to our product name “Spring”. I remember being at the JavaOne conference in 2006. Everyone there knew Spring, but only a small percentage knew Interface21. That wasn’t good for our business, especially when other organizations started selling their own Spring products. In 2007, we changed our name to SpringSource (Spring itself was not available since there was already a technology company that had rights to that name). That made a huge difference–people immediately knew we were the company behind Spring, and we got a lot more business. The importance of clear branding was an important lesson for me and one I tried to keep in mind throughout this process.
Our next step with branding is a logo and theme for pastime.com. That will include an icon (think iPhone app), text logo (comparable in function to the logo you see on the top left of facebook.com), and a site color scheme. For a little fun, we’re also working on an idea for a mascot inspired by the Github Octocat. I hope to have the first version of a branded pastime.com up with a Coming Soon page early next year!