How medical devices are named: 5 thoughts from a branding expert

Developing a new name for a medical device is difficult. The process requires much time, patience, resiliency and an open mind, according to Mike Pile, president and creative director of Uppercase Branding.

Names give us a short, yet complete and convenient mechanism to communicate complex ideas, said Mr. Pile. A name is also the most powerful, cost-effective communication tool companies can use. While a brand's logo, slogan or message can change with the times, names are permanent.

"People are going to call your device something, so why not own it?" wrote Mr. Pile.

Mr. Pile shares how devices are named in a post on the Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry's blog DeviceTalk.

1. Brainstorming. When brainstorming ideas for a new name, companies often skim through dictionaries, Sanskit rhyming dictionaries and glossaries of American sports metaphors, among other resources. Once the company decides on a direction for the device name, it works with designers to create a strong, insightful creative brief — or a document that outlines the company's creative vision and guides the company throughout the entire naming process.

2. The creative process. It can take three months or more for companies to create, evaluate, prescreen and earn approval for a new product name. Companies must be patient and not rush the creative process. The company will likely send evaluations and approvals back and forth with its intellectual property peers, who ask questions and often reject a company's favorite ideas, according to Mr. Pile.

3. Getting outside help. Some companies hire professional naming consultants to help develop the name. This is the consultant's only focus, unlike company executives who must tackle many other duties. The consultant also brings experiences and a professional perspective that can streamline the approval process.

4. Evaluation and feedback. "Rejecting ideas is easy. Approving them requires courage," wrote Mr. Pile. He recommends establishing a set of criteria so companies can achieve an unbiased evaluation of the name. Criteria examples include semantics and linguistics, rational and emotional cues, and suggestive sounds and words, according to Mr. Pile.

5. Final approval. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office receives 5,000 requests per week and rejects thousands each year for various reasons, according to Mr. Pile. Most companies have backup names on hand if their top choice does not get approved.

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