Instant Expert: When "Acme" Doesn't Cut It

What's in a name? Plenty. A great moniker communicates the essence of your company, product or service. But finding one that sings--and isn't someone else's trademarked property--can be tough and expensive. Sure, naming consultants and ad shops will help for a price, but often, you can do it yourself.

Case In Point: MasteryWorks, a small Annandale (Va.)-based career development consultancy, went through a nerve-wracking experience every time they tried to name a new career-planning software program or workshop. With five or six new products yearly, CEO Caela Farren says they needed a system. Now, they assemble a team to brainstorm. First, the group lists words on a white board, looking for a combination that "hooks energy like a magnet," says Farren. Then, they submit the leading choices to some of their clients for feedback.

Resources: Naming Your Business and Its Products and Services, by Phillip G. Williams, (P. Gaines Co., 1991). Despite a cutesy layout, it's a good overview of the creative and legal aspects. Jump Start Your Brain, by Doug Hall, (Warner Books, 1995). Hall offers 37 "brain programs" to spur creativity.

Grit your teeth through the sales pitch for free advice from consultants: At, there's a check list for do-it-yourselfers. Master-McNeil's www. provides a glossary of naming terms. Subscribe to Ashton Adams' free Brand Report e-mail newsletter at Have a trademark question? Check with the United States Patent and Trademark Office,

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