8. What Should We Call Ourselves?

Do you want to give your group a name? Many sharing groups—especially small groups that don't plan to admit more members—don't bother with a name. But for larger groups that want to endure and grow, choosing a creative, memorable name can help build the group's reputation in the community.

There are a few limits on names you can choose. First, many states restrict groups from using particular words in their names, to avoid confusing the public. Typically, you cannot call yourself "Inc.," "Incorporated," "Cooperative" (in some states), "Ltd.," "Corporation," or "Foundation" unless you are legally incorporated as one of these entities. However, you may freely use the words "Company," "Group," "Associates," "Organization," "Collective," or "Affiliates."

Second, you could be blocked from using a name that's identical or confusingly similar to one already in use by another group or business. This is especially true if the group or business with the same name is located near you or has activities similar to your group. If your group plans to incorporate or register your name with the state, you may also be prevented from using a name that someone else has already registered. To see if the name you want is available, you can do an Internet search and look in your local phone directories. You can look at your state trademark and business name registries and the Federal Trademark Register (www.uspto.gov). You can also find out what fictitious business names are on file locally, usually with the county or city clerk.

Finally, you might want to decide what will happen to the name when the group dissolves. Will any particular person have the right to use it? This is an important consideration if you have chosen a really cute and clever name that your group is attached to, such as "Think Outside the Boss Worker Cooperative."

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