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Is My Mobile App Name Unique & How Do I Reserve It (Part 1)

How to Reserve an App Name

Your app idea is beginning to take shape and it’s almost time to start the design and development process. First off, congrats, because just about everybody has the next great idea for a mobile app, but rarely do they take the steps to make it a reality.

One of the first things you will want to do is research and then reserve your app name before you spend time and money designing the logo and key screens. Before deciding on a name though, just one quick important note to keep in mind on the technical side of things regarding the app name. Android apps can have up to 50 characters in the Play Store, and can include the name of the app as well as the description of what the app does, i.e., what Google calls “brand name + key function”. One example is, “Trivago: Hotels & Travel”. Trivago is the brand name, and [finding] Hotels and Travel is the key function of the app. For an iOS app, you can only have 30 characters, but there is an additional ‘subtitle’ field for up to 30 characters. What you pack into those 50 or 30 characters can get pretty nuanced, as far as app optimization and discoverability. There are entire books written, and even more YouTube videos, on utilizing all sorts of fancy discoverability techniques like indexing and keyword selections. We’ll save that topic for another day.

So, what does that mean to “reserve” the name, and how do you even go about finding out if the name is already taken? In this blog post we will discuss the second part of that equation, which is how to best find whether your app name/title is available, and all the considerations involved with that. In our next blog post, we’ll describe the exact process for securing the name of your app in the app stores.

When you are trying to lock up a website domain name, it’s as easy as going to a large web hosting and domain registrar company, such as GoDaddy, Domain.com, etc., and typing in BestWebsiteNameEver.com in a search bar. Immediately you are told if it’s taken, or if it’s available. If available, you pay about ten bucks and BOOM, your domain is locked up! If only it were that easy to find and reserve your app name!

Unfortunately, with apps there’s no one, definitive, place to search and confirm if someone else already has an iPhone, iPad or Android mobile app name locked up, except through an Apple or Google developer account (discussed in our next blog post). However, before you even get to that point, you will obviously want to do a high-level search first. In most cases, conducting this initial search process will give you an extremely good idea as to whether an app with the same, or similar, name is already published. And often times these searches will reveal trends as to what might very soon be published and whether you might have any intellectual property conflicts.

The first “quick and dirty” search to find any iOS apps is to search in both the iPhone and iPad App stores from those two respective device types. Of course, you’ll also want to check for Android apps. Google makes this a little easier in that you able to do one search from the Google Play Store on the web.

The second search you’ll want to make involves looking for an existing app name through a good old fashioned Google search, using various search terms that are very similar, or matching, to your desired app name.   Then, you’ll also want to type in one of the following URL strings into a Google browser search bar:

  1. To find an app name in the App Store type in site:itunes.apple.com app [enter desired app name here]
  2. To find an app name in the Play Store type in site:play.google.com app [enter desired app name here]

Note: There will be lots of overlapping results from what you found in the app store searches. However, you can often find apps in development using the Google search methods, since it’s casting a much broader net using the world’s most powerful internet browser.

One final method to check if your app name is already published on either of the app stores is to search on one of the database aggregators on the web. Some of these sites offer a very comprehensive list of highly effective, paid research and tracking solutions that are used by app developers and marketers. However, they often allow any site visitor to do a quick name-search for free from their Home pages. One great example of a site that offers this is Searchman.com. We don’t use any of the paid features of Searchman.com, and this is not an endorsement of those more targeted research and ranking solutions that they provide for a fee. However, the limited, free search option that they offer seems to find the majority of app names we’ve searched which we know, or suspect, are already live.

So you’ve completed your search above, and nothing comes up that is an existing, published app using your desired app name. The next step is to do a free search on the www.USPTO.gov to see if anyone has already filed for a trademark in the same trademark industry classification number(s) that you want to eventually file your app’s trademark under. There are several great articles on the Internet about how to do your own initial search on uspto.gov without hiring a lawyer. Suffice it to say, that it’s really not that difficult. However, if you are going to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars developing and marketing your mobile app, at some point you should realistically budget to pay an attorney to do an exhaustive trademark search and provide a professional opinion. Obviously, the scope of that legal process is well outside of our expertise, and this blog post.

If you’ve done all of the above, and still aren’t finding any conflicts out there for your app name, then you are well on your way to securing the name! In our next blog post, we will tell you how to find out if another developer has already reserved your app name in a development stage, and if not, what needs to be done to reserve it.

By Scott Curtis, Co-Founder of Epic Apps