Checking the availability of your business name is a little like playing detective, but instead of solving a crime, you’re just making sure you won’t get sued or confused with another company.
Why You Should Check Availability of Business Name
Let’s get on that oh-so-perfect business name search to start your business empire. But first, why travel this investigative journey?
To Avoid Trademark Infringement: If you use a business name that is already in use by another company, you could be sued for trademark infringement, faring as a costly and time-consuming element to your business that you weren’t ready to uncover. Filing your business in your given state doesn’t require you to get a trademark, but if you want your name to be unique in your country, then you’ll need one.
To Protect Your Brand: Your business name will speak for you, your offerings, and your team, so make it as unique and special as the service you’re providing to the world. Protect your brand by making sure you’re checking your business name before spending money on establishing yourself in your field.
To Avoid Confusion: Seeing double might do more harm than good. If someone owns a similar name as yours, they could be a little confused about who you are versus some other business with the same name. Plus, if someone else already owns a similar name as yours, they could confuse customers who may think they are affiliated with each other or perhaps even sue for damages if they feel their business has been damaged by yours (even if this isn’t true).
How to Determine if a Business Name Is Taken
Let’s continue with that search for your finest business name, without getting into any legal trouble. There are a few ways to search for that perfect title:
Use a Search Engine
Put your faith in good ol’ Google, and take a look at what other businesses with your name are up to (if there are any).
Check “Doing Business As” (DBAs)
Visit your state’s Secretary of State office or website to look at the businesses that might already have your name.
Check Trademark Business Names
Head on over to USPTO, or the United States Patent and Trademark Office, to do a simple search for already-trademarked business names.
Check LLC Registry
The LLC Registry is a database that contains information about, you guessed it, Limited Liability Companies. The registry is maintained by the Secretary of State in each state, so search the state you’re establishing to see what your local LLCs are called.
What to Do if a Business Name Is Taken
If that dream name fell away from your reach, don’t worry. There are a ton of different ways you can still use your name– even if in a creative way:
- Choose a Different Name: Okay, okay, this might not be your first choice. But consider some alterations to your first choice to showcase some uniqueness. Who knows, you might spark an idea that’s even better than your first.
- Add a Simple Word or Phrase to Your Business Name: If you’re thinking of Thrive Coffee, consider something like Thrive Java, or Thriving Bean. Even changing the words around, like Coffee Thrive, might be a swanky approach that none others have taken.
- Use a DBA (Doing Business As) Name: A DBA name is a fictitious name that you can use in addition to your legal business name. For example, if your legal business name is “Stephanie Jones Productions” you could use the DBA name “Stephanie’s Crystals.”
- Contact the Owner of the Business Name. It might be a long shot, but it doesn’t hurt to try reaching out to the business owner to see if they’d be willing to sell their name if you’re willing to pay a pretty penny over it.
How to Reserve Your Business Name
Each state has its process for reserving business names, so check with your state’s secretary of state office to find out the required process.
In general, you will need to provide the Secretary of State office with the following information when you register
- The name you want to reserve
- The type of business entity you are forming (corporation, LLC, etc.)
- The address of your business
- The name and contact information of the registered agent for your business
From there, the office will then search their records to see if the name you want to reserve is available. If the name is available, they might be able to reserve it for you for a certain period so you can establish your business and officially file it in your state.
Some things to note:
- Reserving a business name doesn’t mean you’ve formed a business. You’ll have to go back and ensure you’ve fully completed your Articles of Organization so your business can be fully intact.
- Reserving a business name in your state isn’t the same as getting a trademark, which is on a national level. If you want to protect your business name from others in the country, you’ll want to get an official trademark for the business.
- Working with a business formation company like doola can make the processes of establishing a name (and business!) a lot easier.
How to Register Your Business Name
- Choose a unique and memorable name that encompasses your brand and encapsulates your vision.
- Search using the techniques you learned above to ensure the name is available and not already taken.
- Choose a legal structure (LLC, Sole Prop, S-corp) and register your business entity.
- Optional: File for a trademark if you want your business name to be protected country-wide.
- Bonus: Register for a domain name that matches your business name at a .com.
Let doola Help Guide Your Business to Success
From choosing a business name to reviewing business transactions monthly to opening a business bank account and beyond, doola’s business specialists are on-call to help you choose the perfect name, approach, and management structure to help you run, grow, and scale your business with ease!
Get started today by having one of our financial specialists guide you toward your next step.
Do I need a DBA?
You may need a DBA (Doing Business As) name if you want to operate your business under a name other than your own name or the name of your business entity. Otherwise, you can call your business the same name as its official name.
Can I use an inactive business name?
You may be able to use an inactive business name, but it’s important to check with your state’s Secretary of State to make sure it’s available.
Can you use the name of a company that no longer exists?
You might. Best to check with the Secretary of State to make sure it’s available.
Can two companies have the same name?
You could, but they’ll have to pay close mind to copyright infringement if one of them decides to buy a copyright.
What names are not allowed to be used for a company?
Your business name can’t have a business entity name in it like LLC or Corporation. It also can’t be a name that’s copyrighted by another business.