Why Should I Check If a Business Name Is Available?
There are reasons beyond brand-building and differentiation that make checking the availability of your startup name an absolute requirement: state law and legal requirements.
States Require It
State law requires businesses to have a unique name, meaning it cannot be identical or have only a slight difference to an existing business name. For this reason, determining whether your desired business name is available is crucial.
To avoid copyright or trademark infringement and potential lawsuits, it is important to ensure your business name is unique from competing business entities. Regardless of whether this results in a lawsuit, it will, at the very least, require time and money to rename your business if you run into legal issues.
How to Check Business Name Availability
Once it’s time to choose a name for your startup, it is important to confirm the availability of your proposed business name before moving forward. Here’s how to check to make sure your business name is available:
1. Conduct an Internet Search
A great business name stands out. Therefore, this is also a good time to do a general internet search to check if your business name is already being used by a competitor or other business. This can apply to businesses in your state and beyond.
Good places to start your business name search include Google, LinkedIn, Crunchbase, and popular social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter.
2. Search at the State Level
Next, conduct a state-level search using the business entity database offered by the state you're forming your business in. You can typically find these on the Secretary of State's website; however, each state is different.
The business entity databases for each state will include all registered business entities so you can avoid copyright issues in the future. If you prefer, you can also contact your state agency directly to confirm the availability of your desired startup name.
3. Conduct a DBA Search
While state-level searches provide corporate entity names, some businesses choose to operate under DBAs or “doing business as” names. These are fictitious names that do not necessarily match the registered business name.
While many states require DBAs to be registered, some do not. If your state doesn’t require the registration of DBAs, you can contact the office of your county or city clerk to determine if your desired business name is already in use by a DBA, as some local governments require their registration.
If your state does require registration, however, you can easily search registered DBAs online or by contacting your state agency.
Keep in mind that while these business names may not be their corporate entity name, it is possible that the company still has legal claims over them.
4. Search at the Federal Level
Even if your business name is available in your state, it may not be available at the federal level.
To ensure your startup name isn’t taken, check the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) federal trademark database. A trademark search also protects you against legal ramifications if the name you choose is trademarked, as well as time and money in the future if you were required to rename your business due to trademark infringement laws.
For additional help, visit our review of the best trademark services for startups.
5. Check Domain Name Availability
You may have found the perfect name that is copyright and trademark-free. However, if a usable domain name isn’t available, you may have difficulty building your brand and developing a strong online presence.
Using a startup name generator can help you develop unique startup names with guaranteed domain availability that you can secure on the spot.
You can also search GoDaddy for available domain names:
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How do I come up with a startup business name?
It’s no secret that a great startup name is crucial to building a successful brand. Brainstorming, researching, and utilizing naming tools can help the process of finding the perfect name.
If you’re not sure where to start in naming your startup business, check out this guide on how to name a startup.
What should I do if my desired business name is taken?
If your desired business name is taken, you have only two options: return to the drawing board to find an available business name or attempt to purchase the rights to your ideal startup name from the current owners.
How do you check if your business name is available on social media?
Checking your business name availability on social media is simple. Using the search function on the platform, search your business name to see if there are any corresponding usernames. It is also a good idea to search a few different variations of the name to ensure it is available.
How do I register a business name?
Once you’ve determined your startup business name is available, you will need to register the name with the state you’re forming your new business in to protect it. The process varies state-by-state but is commonly done in tandem with forming your business.