How to Check for Business Name Availability

April 27, 2021

In the United States, there are 30.2 small businesses that employ over 47% of the US workforce.

It doesn't matter if you're building a business of one or a company with hundreds of employees. Either way, the name you choose plays a monumental role in the perception and growth of your business.

While it can be good to brainstorm for business names in an unlimited and open-minded way, that's only the first step in the process. Before you start slapping that name on your marketing material and products, you'll want to ask the question: "is this business name available?"

It's important to make sure your chosen name hasn't already been scooped up by another entity or DBA. Let's take a look at how to check for business name availability so your business name doesn't create unnecessary bumps in the road for your brand.

Why Should You Check For Business Name Availability?

When you are registering your business as a business entity, formation documents will have to be filed with your state. In every state, it is required that new business names are different from existing businesses.

What that means is that business naming is not something you can do without any research. The name of your business cannot be identical to another business entity in the same state.

Additionally, you can't make your business name different by making an inconsequential change. Simply adding an "s" at the end or having a different form of entity identifier likely isn't enough.

As an example, if a company is called "Doug's Plumbing, Inc." you most likely can't name your business "Doug's Plumbing, LLC."

It's worth it to check for the business name availability before you file your paperwork. Otherwise, you might have your request denied and have to start from scratch.

Another reason it's important to check for business name availability is that another company might have trademark rights to the name. When you search to make sure a business name is available before choosing it, you can avoid potential legal issues down the road.

If another company does accuse you of infringing on their trademark, you might have to stop using the name after you've put so much energy and money towards marketing it.

How to Check For Business Name Availability

There is a state agency or a secretary of state in every U.S. state that deal with business entity filings. Often, you can find that the state business filing agency website has an entity name check tool available online. This tool allows you to search business names to ensure that you aren't creating a business with an identical name to an existing entity.

If you do end up coming across a business entity that has a similar (but not identical) name, you'll want to take a look at the specific business naming requirements for your state. This will help you understand whether or not the name you've chosen is appropriate or if you need to make changes to your name.

Looking For Similar or Identical DBAs

Even if your state doesn't have any business entities that have the same or similar name doesn't mean you're totally in the clear. A number of different types of entities might operate under DBAs ("Doing Business As.")

It is common for businesses that operate in this way to be required to register the name of their business with the county or city. You'll want to take a look at the DBA registrations in your area to make sure there isn't a local business using your same name already.

It's possible that the DBA business has rights in the form of common law trademark in regards to the name of the business.

It's also important to consider that a similarly named local business might have already built up recognition in the market you're hoping to break into. This could make it much more difficult to market yourself. It's therefore likely a good idea to come up with a name that is more distinguished from the existing company.

Trademark Business Name Check

You'll also want to make sure that there aren't other businesses that have obtained nationwide trademark protection for a similar business name as yours. Businesses can do this through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. You can search their database online to see if there are any business names that are the same or similar to yours.

Does the name you have chosen potentially violate the trademark of another business? If so, it's probably a good idea to discuss your options with a trademark lawyer. They can help advise you in regards to whether or not the business name poses potential legal problems for you.

Check to See If a Business Already Has an Internet Presence With Your Chosen Name

Another good practice before registering your business is to do a general internet search. This will quickly help you determine if another business already has a strong internet presence with the name that you've chosen.

A business with a dominant internet presence potentially have state law or common law trademark rights. They also might have social networking profiles and domain names that match the business name. This can make it much more difficult for you to do business with our chosen name.

On top of that, competing with a larger business with a similar name will make it harder for you to rank when people search for your business name.

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Is It Time For You to Grow Your Business?

Learning how to check for business name availability and choosing the perfect name is an important step in the creation of your business. If you aren't conscious about other brands with similar names, it could cause you setbacks, headaches, and even potential legal trouble down the road.

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