Friday, September 11, 2009

Ah, the Name...

I honestly think that naming our company was even harder than naming our children. The name has to accomplish so much and dodge so many potential obstacles.

When we started contemplating names, I don't think either of us was 100% on board with the notion of actually going forward with this business. Oddly, I believe that finding the name was what pushed us both fully on board.

We considered several variations involving my name, since the cookie recipes would be mine ... Suzanna's Cookies, Oh Suzanna's Cookies, and so on. We'd thought of other names like Out of the Oven Cookies, and several others I can't remember now. But we stumbled on Cookie Love quite by chance.

I'd begun working on some test recipes at about that time, which was in the summer of 2006 when I was gloriously pregnant with my daughter. I didn't want to eat all my test batches, so I shipped some off to my best friend, Deb, in Los Angeles. I remember writing on the note card for this shipment "Here's some cookie love for you." It hit me right then that Cookie Love would be a fun name for the company. I mentioned it to Paul, who didn't seem too fond of it at the time. A couple of weeks later Paul came to me and said "I think I have the name! Cookie Love, what do you think?" I laughed and reminded him that I'd suggested that one before but that he didn't seem to like it. He liked it now, and I still liked it, and as soon as we started to ponder it, we realized what fun we could have naming flavors after different kinds of love.

A cute story...Since I was in my eighth month of pregnancy at the time, we were also searching for baby names. We knew we were having a girl. Paul was working at a restaurant and he would often talk to his co-workers about names, both baby names and company names. One day shortly after we'd decided on the company name he went to work and told a co-worker "We have it... the name." She asked what it was and he said "Cookie Love!" As Paul tells it, her face fell and she tried very hard to summon an enthusiastic response, but she was clearly perplexed. "What?" he said, "you don't like it?" She repeated, "Cookie Love?" Then he realized and he said, "Not for the baby, for the company." Oh the relief that washed over her face! She thought our daughter's name was going to be Cookie Love Seyler.

What we didn't do early enough in our selection of company names is a thorough search to see whether it was being used elsewhere. I did search for the domain name to see if it was available, and I learned that it was already owned by someone, although at the time the domain was just parked rather than actively used. I did not do a trademark search at that point. I don't think either of us had articulated what we hoped and intended for this business to become, so the thought that we would need a trademark had not even occurred to us. Then again, we were both so in love with the name (pardon the pun), I don't know if any of that would have changed our choice. The name embodies what baking cookies is all about to us, and it provides such a fertile bed of creative ideas to build on the notion of love.

Because the domain was not available, we decided to add "Vermont" to the front of the name, because WAS available. We also decided that it would help to identify it as a Vermont product. I also registered the company name under the state trade name registration procedure. That was about all the protection I thought we would need at first. We have since filed for a federal trademark, but more about that later.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the original idea for the company involved calling our frozen cookie dough a "DOUGH-rito." Some of you may immediately recognize the potential trademark problem with that. As a lawyer, I too was aware of a potential problem. But, relying only on my second year law school trademark class and some cursory research, I thought we would be alright using this name because of the lack of a likelihood of confusion between our DOUGH-ritos and the snack food Doritos. We did use the name in our packaging and signage for about a year. But then I hired a lawyer to help us trademark the name, and she informed us that because Doritos is an incredibly famous mark, that merely using a name that sounds alike could be deemed an infringement of their mark. So, although we were in love with DOUGH-rito at first, we had to make the difficult choice to drop the name before the potential for legal trouble turned into actual legal trouble. As it turned out,
we felt our customers were more familiar with our company name and logo than with the word DOUGH-rito, so it was not as painful to give up as it could have been. But it was an interesting lesson learned.

So what's the lesson? I guess it's to be prudent when searching for a company or product name, do all the searches, hire a lawyer even, so you can save yourself the bother of spending time and money trying to remedy a problematic name choice later. We didn't do the prudent thing on the product name until we were already far along in the process. But if you find a name that really floats your boat, you may decide that it is worth working through the obstacles, like we did with the company name.

Now I'm off to do my lawyering work, the work that sustains us while we build this company.

1 comment:

  1. I love the name and your cookies! Thanks for sponsoring the Vermont Outdoors Woman Doe Camp. That was my introduction to your cookies, and I've just been on your website looking at the yummy things I can order. Too bad they're not available in southern NH yet, but I'll pay shipping or drive to Brattleboro to get some to share with friends. Great cookies!