Choosing the right business name can be quite a process. Do you want the name to reflect the business? Does it give customers a good description of what your company does? Does it reflect the business philosophy? The aesthetics of a business name are also important interms of customer appeal and being remembered. How does the name look as part of a logo, in social media and online? An even bigger question is: is your business name available?
Is my business name available?
Here are the ways you can check to see if your desired business name is available - or to find out if the name you've already started with is going to run into trouble at some point!
At the risk of sounding like a plug, like many other busy entrepreneurs you may decide to outsource the search to a service like SunDoc Filings. We can check the availability of your business name for you, as well as reserve and register the name, all at a very affordable cost. First however, there is some due diligence you can perform yourself.
Searches you can perform yourself
The simplest first way of course is to check the Web to see what's out there. The Internet has shown us that there's very little uniqueness of ideas - if we've thought of something, odds are good someone else has also. The Web search is the first line of attack, that may eliminate any further effort with a potential name.
Are you planning to incorporate, or just register as a DBA (Doing Business As)? For a DBA you only need check your county clerk's office to see if your name is available. Bear in mind that any business entity can use a DBA for any purpose (special promotion, product line etc), so depending how far afield you see your business reaching, your DBA check may need to extend beyond your own county. (Read our "DBA - Doing Business As" special post for more about this useful registration.)
For incorporation, or to see if any incorporated entities exist in your state with your chosen name, you need to check with your Secretary of State's office.
You can check your state's database of registered company names, but don't plan on this being the final word - the databases are generally not intended for name availability searches and are not regarded as completely reliable. Some states require you to pay a fee in order to check for name availability (California does not require a fee).
You may not be planning to trademark your business name but you'll want to make sure you're not infringing someone else's existing mark. Fortunately you can use the government search tool, TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System), for searching variations and similar business names. Once again, this is not completely exhaustive. If trademark is important to your busines name then consult an attorney specializing in trademark searches and intellectual property.
If your various searches reveal someone in business already using the name you want, you may still be able to use it yourself, if the other company is in a different region or provides goods or services that are not similar to your business. Bear in mind this article is not offering legal advice, and check with an attorney if you think you may face a conflict.
For more information on how to start a business, please see 13 Steps to Starting a Business in California.
SunDoc Filings is not a law firm. The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.