how to see if a business name is taken

How to See If a Business Name Is Taken? Name Search Guide

“Is my business name taken?” is a common worry of new entrepreneurs. It could also be one of their worst nightmares, as trademark infringement may result in long and expensive legal problems. That’s why you need to know how to see if a business name is taken. Read on!

Key Takeaways

  • To check if a business name is available, look it up in government databases such as the USPTO’s search engine.
  • A quick online search can give you a general idea of what’s taken, but it’s not enough to give you the green light on a name.
  • Two companies may have the same name if there is no risk of competition or customer confusion between them. That is, if they operate in different industries and states, they can share a name without trademark infringement.

Business Name and Trademarks

Before we discuss how to check for a business name’s availability, let’s explain a few terms. It’s common to use your business name as a trademark, but it doesn’t mean they’re the same.

A business name is simply the name under which a company is run. It can be registered with the government, but it doesn’t provide any legal protection. A trademark, on the other hand, is a protected form of intellectual property. If you don’t register one, your brand may be vulnerable to customer poaching and damaged reputation.

Fact 🔍

A trademark costs between $250 and $350 per class of goods or services. So if your business provides two different kinds of services (e.g., design software and printing), you’ll need to register the trademark twice. Factor it into your startup costs!

Ways to Check If a Business Name Is Available

Ways to Check If a Business Name Is Available

Choosing a name for your business may seem straightforward. But what if another business entity is already called the same? How to see if a business name is taken?

First, you can do a quick search for the name online. Just enter it into a search engine like Google or Bing and see if another company comes up. Remember, though, that some companies don’t operate under the same name as their domain name.

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For more reliable results, go to the Secretary of State website and find a link to business name search. For example, here’s one for New York State. Once you’ve found it, enter the name you’re thinking of using for your business. If the name is available, you should be able to proceed with registering your business.

Ask the filing office which forms you need to fill out and submit for a name availability search. Once you’ve submitted everything, someone should get back to you within a few days to let you know if the name is indeed available.

Check If Your Business Name Has Been Trademarked

If the business name you want seems to be available, the next step is to find out whether it’s been trademarked by someone else. To do a trademark search, you can use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) search engine. If you find that the name you want is already in use, don’t despair, because:

  • If the business that has the trademark rights is in a different industry, you may be able to use the name.
  • An inactive trademark means that the business isn’t currently using the name. This could mean that you might be able to register the name for your own business.

Keep in mind that if you use a similar name without permission, you may run into legal trouble. Trademark infringement may cost you as little as $200 or as much as $200,000, depending on the damage done. Nevertheless, some states’ trademark laws allow using similar names if the trademarked company is based in another state.

Did You Know… 🔍

When Steve Jobs first founded Apple Computer, he was sued by the Beatles’ holding company Apple Corps for trademark violation. The conflict was settled when Apple Computer promised never to enter the music industry. But in 2003, the promise was broken when they revealed their new product – iTunes. After 4 more years of fighting, it was agreed that Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer) would own all trademarks related to “Apple,” and Apple Corps would have a license to keep using theirs.

What Are Fictitious Names?

A fictitious business name is one that is not the legal name of the owner. They’re also called assumed business names, trade names, or DBA names (“doing business as”). Many businesses, LLCs or even sole proprietors use fictitious business names. For example, John Smith might do business as “Smith Appliance Repair.”

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Some states require businesses to register their fictitious names with the state, while others don’t. Therefore, one of the steps in learning how to see if a business name is taken is to get familiar with the DBA registration process.

The Importance of a Name Search

Choosing a name may seem simple, but take the time to do a thorough name search before making a final decision. The name of a business can have a significant impact on its success – here’s a helpful checklist:

  • The name should be distinctive and easy to remember.
  • It should be closely related to the products or services offered by the company.
  • The name should be available as a web domain and social media handle.
  • It’s also worth checking to see if the chosen name has any negative connotations.

How to See If a Business Name Is Taken? Key Takeaways

In conclusion, how to see if a business name is taken? First, do a quick online search; very often, this will tell you if a business is already operating right away. The next step is to check with the Secretary of State and USPTO. If neither of these contains your chosen business name, then you may register it as yours! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use a Business Name That Is Already Taken?

If the name you have in mind is already trademarked, there is no way to legally use it unless it’s in a different industry and geographic location. Remember that the purpose of trademarks is to prevent customer confusion and unfair competition. If there’s no risk of either happening, then you’ll likely be able to register the name and use it without issues.

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Can There Be Two Businesses With the Same Name?

Yes, as long as they operate in different industries and locations. For example, two bakeries operating in the same city can’t both use the same “Jerry’s.” But if one Jerry’s is a bakery in Colorado, and another is a landscaping business in Texas, then they can both use the name.

How Do I Pick a Business Name That Is Not Taken?

You’ll have better luck thinking of an original name if you don’t limit yourself to a specific format. Think of words that have some connection with your business, but don’t be afraid to brainstorm something different. For example, there are plenty of restaurants with combinations like Urban Curry or Granny’s Kitchen as their names. But have you ever heard of one named Jumping Trout or Crazy Chameleon?

What Happens If You Use Someone Else’s Business Name?

If you unknowingly use a taken business name without registering it, you may be forced to rebrand and change it later. Additionally, you may have to pay legal fees or damages if the other business decides to take action. Checking with a lawyer before committing to a name could save you time, money, and potential headaches down the road.

What Cannot Be Trademarked?

Common words, phrases, slogans, and logos cannot be trademarked. This means that you could use words such as “fresh” or “organic,” but without a logo or specific combination of words, it doesn’t qualify for protection. Additionally, trademarks can’t be used if they’re already being used by someone else in the same industry or if they’re offensive.



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