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How to Check if a Business Name Is Taken

how to check if business name is taken

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Perhaps you’ve always been great at something, and up until now, it’s only been a hobby. But after heaps of praise from countless people throughout the years, you’ve decided to pursue your passion. Not only will you have a more fulfilling career path, but you’ll also bring joy to people’s lives.

The problem is, there are 33.2 million small businesses in the US. It’s going to be a tough task to select a name that’s not just memorable, but not already in use either.

Thankfully, there are several ways how to check if a business name is taken.


Do a Google Search

Google (or your search engine of choice) is a powerful tool you definitely should take advantage of. After you’ve brainstormed several potential names for your company, simply type in those names and see what hits you get.

If it doesn’t seem that anyone’s taken the name yet, one way to be doubly sure is to put quotes around the business name when searching. This forces the search engine to look for that exact phrase.

Another tip is to put your industry alongside the potential name. For example, if you want the name “Super Cuts” and you’re a hairdresser, you’d Google something like “Super Cuts barber”.


Check With the Secretary of State’s Office

Many states require that you register your business, and even in the ones that don’t, there are many benefits you get from doing so, especially if you get the assistance from a professional like Business Anywhere. What this means is that you can check with your Secretary of State’s office.

Their website will have a business name checker, where you can look for available corporation, limited partnership, and LLC names. Do note that if there are similar names to the one you’re interested in, you’ll have to go back to the drawing board. Make sure you keep your state’s specific business naming requirements in mind too.


Check Fictitious Name Databases Too

To make things more complicated, companies can operate under two names. The first is their registered name and the other is their fictitious one, otherwise known as a fictitious business name (FBN), trade name, or assumed business name. You’ll also see it referred to as “doing business as” (DBA).

Instead of the Secretary of State’s office, you’ll consult with either your city or county clerk’s office. This gives you access to a wealth of data, as you won’t find it anywhere else. Typically, you’ll see unregistered trademarks from other small companies that are like the one you want to create.

As with the Secretary of State’s office database, if you uncover any identical or very similar names, you’ll need to rethink things. You don’t want the chance of legal issues in the future, as common law trademark rights can apply.


Search the USPTO

The USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) will have additional information so you can make sure you’ve got a truly unique company name.

As you might’ve already guessed, this database keeps track of trademarked names. In addition to looking for your desired business name, you can find out if potential product or service names are in use too.


Look on Social Media Platforms

Because it’s easy to create a brand online, many people have done so without trademarking or registering their names. For instance, many influencers have creative usernames that they use across platforms like Instagram and Twitter, yet you wouldn’t find those names on official databases.

These people may already have an established follower base, so you want to do your due diligence to ensure your business name is truly untaken. Otherwise, you risk accusations that you’re trying to steal followers, and new users can become confused.

This step also you to check username availabilities too. Make note of whether you need to get creative on certain platforms if the full name is already taken.

Check social media for your chosen name too!

Do a Domain Search

There are several free domain name search sites you can utilize; Google Domains is one, for example.

Type in the business name you want, and the site will show you if it’s available. In addition, it’ll tell you which suffixes you can use (such as .com, .net, or .org), as well as how much they cost per year. This will give you a good idea of what you can use and if it’ll fit your budget.

If you’re set on the name and it’s available, putting some money down immediately can be a smart move. This prevents others from reserving the domain name and can also signify to them that they need to think of a different name.


Hire a Lawyer

If you pick a name that’s already in use by another business, you can get into all sorts of legal trouble. While it’s true that there usually isn’t any issue if you’re in completely different industries and/or you’re far away from each other that you won’t steal one another’s customers, you risk being sued by the other company for trademark infringement. You’ll have to do things like pay them money damages and completely rebrand your business.

It’ll cost you, but it’s usually worth it to hire a business or trademark lawyer. These experts have the knowledge, experience, and skill to do a more thorough search than you. Plus, if their searches turn up positive hits, they can further advise you on how to alter your company name and/or its product names.


Know How to Check if a Business Name Is Taken

If you know how to check if a business name is taken, then you’re off to a great start. Picking an unused name will make the whole business creation process a lot smoother.

But of course, you can always use a professional’s help, such as Business Anywhere. Not only can we file your Articles of Organization, but we can also do things like file your EIN application, give you a registered address, and more.

Sign up with Business Anywhere now to take advantage of our comprehensive services. We’ve got simple pricing plans and no hidden fees!

About Author

Picture of Rick Mak

Rick Mak

Rick Mak is a 30-year veteran businessman, having started, bought, and/or sold more than a dozen companies. He has bachelor's degrees in International Business, Finance, and Economics, with masters in both Entrepreneurship and International Law. He has spoken at hundreds of conferences around the world during his career on entrepreneurship, international tax law, asset protection, and company structure. Business Anywhere Editorial Guidelines

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