Learn How to Research Your Business Names
You have found a business name you want to use. Now what? The next thing you need to do is check to make sure no one else is using that name.
Why to Check Before Using a Business Name
It might seem obvious, but maybe not.
- You don't want to confuse people by opening up Smith's Market in the same city as a business named "Smith's Produce Market."
- You may want to trademark your business name, and you need to be sure you aren't infringing on some else's trademark.
- Even if you don't want to trademark the name, you might get sued if you are using someone else's name, and
- You will want a domain name, and you might have trouble getting it if someone else with the same name already has it.
How Wide the Search Have to Be?
Depending on how large your market (local? state? national?) will determine how much you want to search. For example, if you want to open a local business using your name in the title (Smith's Market, for example), you should check within your county and maybe your state. But if you are on the internet, you will probably run into problems with finding a domain name.
It is a good idea to go through all of these searches, because they are all at no cost, and you can then be reasonably sure you won't be infringing on the name of some other business. There is no guarantee, but at least you have done your due diligence.
Where to Begin Business Name Search
Here are some places to search:
Google the Name
Doing a web search is the place most people start when checking on a business name. While a general search can let you know if there are other similar business names, there are some more detailed searches you should also perform.
Search for the Domain Name
If you want to use your business name as your domain name, be sure to check to be certain no one else is using this domain name. Alyssa Gregory, Small Business Expert, has an article about how to find and register a domain name.
If you will be doing business locally, search your local phone book or online yellow pages (YellowPages.com, for example)
Search in Your State
You can search YellowPages.com or other online sites for businesses in your state, or you can go to the website of your state's secretary of state and search the business name register database.
Search by Registering Your Name
Another way to check to see if your business name is being used in your state is to attempt to register your name in your state. Go to the secretary of state website to learn how to register your business name.
Search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
If a business name has been trademarked, you can find it on the USPTO website, in the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).