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July 23, 2007 | Tate Linden
We're occassionally asked how important it is to have a unique name - as in one that exists nowhere else in the world. And our response hasn't changed much over the years.

Unique in your industry is likely important. Unique in the world is not.

While it isn't necessarily a bad thing to coin a new term, it certainly makes a naming project more challenging, and the resulting marketing campaign will likely cost more. (You're not only paying to put your name out there, you're also having to use 'air time' to explain what it means or ensure that people spell the name correctly.)

How hard is it to come up with a unique term?

Taking a look at the US Patent and Trade site we find that it's actually pretty easy to find a combination of letters that have only used once. Just starting with the letter "A" we quickly discover some unique opportunities.

There are 1,326,511 documents filed with the letter "A" standing alone. (Note that this doesn't mean that the word is in the name, only that it is in the filing somewhere - perhaps in the description... but since we're looking for something unique we don't even want to see the word in the description.)

Moving on th "AA" we find we're down to 1122 documents.

AAA gives us 780, AAAA has 28, and AAAAA finds just 3 filings. If you want to find an existing unique name you're looking at SIX letter As in a row. And it looks like there've been a few people who noticed that six As were taken and moved even further. Check out ACTIVE LIQUID MINERALS AAAAAA, STAR-ZYME A AAAAAAAAA, and even more impressive, "AAAAAARGH! Inc" - the registrant for the mark "COMEDYCITY."

While computers are getting better at suggesting the right spelling for a name we're searching for, we still occasionlly rely on correct spelling to find things - such as in a phone book, an off-line index, or even when searching online in a search engine like the USPTO.

Imagine having a name like "AAAAAARGH!" How would you explain how to find your firm online? Would you say "Just type in ARGH with six As and an exclamation?" (That's the way we'd do it if we were saddled with the name, but it's still a mouthful, and who is to say anyone would remember the number six here?) Maybe it's better to say "Sextuple-Argh!"?

A decent rule of thumb: If your average ten-year-old doesn't know the short-hand for the number of letters (e.g., "double" or "triple") then you've probably put too many of the same letters in. Anything more than three in a row is hard to count quickly, and the short-hand for them would be unfamiliar. How many Americans could find an organization that went by the shorthand - "Nontuple-A?"

Unique can be found through the use of repetition, yes. But a company that works this hard to be unique may be expecting too much from their audience. And additionally, in a world where every website misspelling is camped, having seven or eight As in your name just means that you'll lose traffic to the guy with six or ten of 'em.

Originality ain't easy. And it takes more than math to get there.