I’m sure many people have wondered why some book/movie/TV-inspired candle companies have some really obscure or broad names for some of their candles when the inspiration is clearly from something specific. I’ve actually gotten a few questions regarding my naming process recently and candle names/concepts seem to have been a big buzz topic throughout the community within the past few months. It’s been something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately as I become more educated on the legal aspects of running and owning a business and I thought it would be interesting to share some insights about candle naming with some behind-the-scenes things that candle companies go through when choosing names and titles for their products!
WHY THE OBSCURE NAMES?
CAN’T YOU MAKE THE CANDLES MORE IDENTIFIABLE?
HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH CANDLE NAMES?
There are many, many different reasons why candle companies have so many different names for the same candle. An obvious reason is that we all want to be unique, and there are also many reasons for that too! Personally, I always try to pick a unique name for a candle and I always search the internet and Etsy before deciding on a name so I know I’m not duplicating someone else’s name or idea. I like to try to keep my candles unique to my shop and it’s fun to get creative with the naming process! It can be tricky when a name has been used by a company before and the candle is not currently active, because I try to avoid those names as well, but that’s one of the many reasons why I follow so many candle companies on Instagram (the first being because I adore them and love seeing their new candles!) — I like to keep myself connected to the candle community to make sure that when I come up with something new, I’m not repeating something that someone else did first.
I also really try to avoid choosing a unique name that another shop already has because I know how much work it takes to come up with something totally new and creative! It can take a really long time to come up with the perfect name and I never want to undermine someone else’s work and creative process. There are sometimes when it happens, like when naming a candle with a characters’s specific name or a specific place from a book, so although I try to have unique names, sometimes the author’s selection for that person/place just fits too perfectly and there will be a few shops that may have the same candle name. Otherwise, I try really hard to come up with something different and unique!
Aside from respect for other shops and their ideas, there’s also a legal component to the naming game, which is something I never thought of when I first started making candles. Businesses have to be very mindful of copyrights and trademarks. Both are easily searchable through copyright and trademark databases so I always visit those before putting a name to my candle. Big fandoms like Harry Potter, Disney, Lord of the Rings, and Outlander are mega franchises, extending to TV shows and movies so the companies that own those copyrights are usually the ones who tend to hop around Etsy every once in a while and report shops for copyright and/or trademark infringement. Etsy has a nice system that allows shops some warnings when it comes to this but listings are immediately taken down and the shop owner must then remove the candle completely or change the name. This is one of the reasons we tend to get really obscure or general names for candles! Copyright infringement is a scary and serious business and while most companies usually issue a warning, they can proceed with legal action at any time.
Other companies and candle shops can also trademark names, titles, their store name, and even words or phrases as they pertain to their products. Like copyrights, although most trademark owners usually contact a shop before pursuing anything, legal action can be taken at any time. It’s WAY too scary to mess with any of that stuff, plus it’s truly something that someone else owns and is not legal to use on another product. Even if you see other shops using names like “Ravenclaw” and “Hufflepuff” on their products, it’s almost definitely not legal for them to be using unless it’s truly official Harry Potter merchandise. Some shops may never be contacted for things like this and others just happen to get noticed by the big companies and have to take corrective action.
Copyrights can also extend to images which is also why I use my own personal images or those that I’ve purchased as stock images for any designs that I might use that incorporate photos. Whether it’s a photo you find through Google Images or someone’s personal photo, shops always need permission to use an image if it’s not specifically designated as an image that can be used for that purpose. My sister is a Disney travel agent so she was able to educate me on things involving Disney’s policies regarding names and images. Disney images are also copyrighted and including a Disney image on an item is essentially claiming that your product is officially affiliated with Disney, even if it hasn’t been approved, and other companies aren’t even allowed to replicate the Disney or Mickey names in the Disney font because it implies that it’s sanctioned by Disney. It’s a really tricky business coming up with the proper name and representation for candle when taking all of these things into account!
I’ve personally had it happen where I didn’t know I was using another shop’s trademark in one of my products and they kindly contacted me to tell me I needed to change my wording. It was a phrase that they had trademarked as their tagline and at the time, I had no idea that phrases or specific words could be trademarked! It was an eye-opening experience and I’m thankful that it happened with a shop that was so kind and not only willing to contact me first but also explain to me as a newbie how some of the legal concepts of running an Etsy shop (or just a shop in general) worked. I actually just recently procured some trademarks for my business but purchasing a trademark is expensive so it’s worth it to protect your company name and any taglines or special product names that are unique to your business but unless you’re a larger or major company, it can be a bit too expensive to start trademarking all of your candle names. It just depends on how much you want to and can afford to protect as far as original ideas and names go.
I think as companies that get our inspiration from books, this has probably happened to a lot of us and if it hasn’t, it’s likely to happen at some point in time. It’s hard to be careful of trademarks and copyrights but I always try to make sure I’m very diligent about checking before I name a candle. When I first started, I saw other shops using all of these names and just assumed it would be okay and I quickly learned that just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable. Most companies will just issue warnings because they understand that mistakes can happen and the first offense isn’t usually one that you’ll get in trouble for, but I’ve taken down some names and references because it’s surely not worth the chance and I don’t want to infringe in any way.
The rules are the same for all shops, whether it’s a candle company or not. I’m actually really not sure about the fine print about including quotes on products either, since technically they give credit back to the original source. It’s something I need to look into and I’m constantly learning new things about the finer points of running a business. (If anyone knows about this, I’d love to hear more!)
While it sounds like a difficult task, the name game can actually be a lot of fun! Picking a unique product name is another way to stay creative and be proud of something that you came up with 100% on your own. This is another reason why I love my “generally bookish” candles so much. There were no Currently Reading or Book Boyfriend candles on the market when I had come out with them and I love continuing to come up with scents associated with bookish concepts and ideas. It feels truly unique, creative, and those are the candles I’m the most proud of because they were concepts all of my own.