How do I find out if a business name is available?
When you have decided on one or several potential business names, the next step is to check the business name availability. If another competing business has your desired business name, then you will not be able to take this name without infringing on the competitors legal rights. This means that you should do your research thoroughly before committing to a business name, as taking an already used name could result in a lawsuit.
How to Check Business Name Availability
While it's not always easy to determine if the name you want to use is taken, there are several ways to find out if your chosen name(s) are available for use. Since most businesses can be found online these days, a good place to start your business name search is through your favorite search engine. This is an effective and free way to begin your search. It will help you eliminate or leave open potential names right from the start.
A good next step is to check your county or statewide fictitious or assumed business names list. If you are incorporating your business, or organizing it as an LLC or LLP, you should contact your state filing office for information on registered businesses. There are also websites that can assist you in determining if your desired corporate trademark is already in use, such as Corpnet. You may also check fictitious or assumed business names by calling your county clerk’s office.
Many businesses have unregistered trademarks meaning that they just use the name, and have not registered it formally as their trademark. However, these businesses still have legal rights to their name. These lists will help you find out if your name conflicts with these unregistered business names.
Other Ways to Check Business Name Availability
Another way to search for an already taken business name is to visit websites like Thomasnet.com, an unregistered trademark database, or Networksolutions.com, which is a list of reserved or used domain names. These websites are free ways to determine if your chosen name has been taken. An Internet business name search can also be done in directories like Info Space, Info USA or Super Pages. If a domain name is taken that has your desired business name in it, chances are the name is off-limits. Federal trademarks can be searched for on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website.
There also may be cases in which it is okay to use a business name that is already taken. For instance, if the business sells a completely different good or service than you plan to, then you probably will not be infringing on its legal rights by using the same name. The general idea behind this is that if a customer would not be able to confuse your business with another business, because you have the same name, then you are not violation their trademark rights.
If you wanted to name your ice cream business “Creameeze” and there was already a medicated pain cream business named “Creameeze,” it would probably be okay in this case to use the name; it's unlikely that customers would confuse the two. This is especially true if the other business is a smaller business, and is far away from yours.
If you have any hesitation about whether a business name is available, you should talk to a trademark attorney or assume that it is unavailable so that you don’t wind up in a lawsuit.