The company name must be somewhat distinctive and often bears some relation to the startup’s business. If the name of the startup is confusingly similar to the name of another corporation formed in the state that the startup will be incorporated, the secretary of state of such state may refuse to form the startup under its proposed name. Any other state in which the startup does business may also refuse to qualify the startup for business if the name is confusingly similar to another business operating in such state. A startup may be formed under one name in Delaware, but qualify to do business under a different name in other states. This occurs relatively frequently if generic names are chosen for startups. The more generic the name, the more likely this will occur.

It is difficult to find a truly unique name given the number of corporations that existing today. Many entrepreneurs become obsessed with the company name and the company name is often not important in a tech company’s success and can easily be changed if a poor company name was initially chosen. Names such as Google and Twitter probably were memorable and presumably were marginally helpful in making these companies successful. On the other hand, a technology company such as Zynga has been successful even though its name does not bear any relation to its core products. Zynga was originally incorporate as Presidio Media and then changed its name to Zynga, which was the name of a bulldog owned by founder Mark Pincus. Company names such as Bloomberg are not ideal for technology startups because startup company founders often become less involved with their companies over time as the company grows. Use of a founder’s name did not prevent Bloomberg or Craigslist from becoming successful companies.

Many states require a corporate name include certain terms and exclude other terms. For example, in Delaware the company name must end in one of the following terms: Association, Company, Co., Corporation, Corp., Club, Foundation, Fund, Incorporated, Inc., Institute, Limited, Ltd., Society, Syndicate or Union.

Before choosing a company name and spending financial resources to brand such name, a startup should consider a trademark search. Forming a corporation or securing a domain does not mean that the name cannot be challenged under federal trademark laws. Please see “Trademarks” for more information. A simple trademark search will be under $1,000 from a top tech company law firm and a more comprehensive trademark search and analysis is $5,000 to $10,000 at top tech company law firms.

The Delaware Secretary of State allows a company name to be reserved for 120 days for a fee of $75.