Choosing a business name for your new venture or project is a long-term commitment. You need to make sure that your business name will receive a positive response in your industry, resonate with your audience, and well represent the kind of brand you’re building.
But what if the perfect name for your business is already taken? And more importantly, how do you find out whether it is available or not?
In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know for checking whether your business name is taken so you can confidently settle on the one of your choice.
How Do I Check To See If A Business Name Is Available?
There are several ways you can check if a business with the name you have in mind already exists but the surest bet is to check whether it’s trademarked. You can check whether a name is trademarked in the database of the United States Patent And Trademark Office (USPTO) if you’re in the US, or the local trademark office of your country.
Besides looking for a trademark for the name you’re considering, you should also run your research online and offline on whether a business is using that name already. If a business is using the same name as you do in the same field, it might create confusion for your customers. In turn, this also gives a legal basis for your competitor for a lawsuit against you.
If you’ve done your research and you don’t find any business name that might interfere with your future commercial activity, then you can use that name, register it, and protect it with a trademark.
What Should I Do If My Business Name Is Taken?
If you find out that your business name is already trademarked by someone else, you may be able to use it in a different field so long as the two businesses aren’t easily confused with each other. For example, if there’s a flower shop called Rising Flowers in your city, you can still start a company called Rising Consultancy that operates in a completely different field.
You can also choose a variation or synonym of that name that distinguishes it clearly from the competition. For example, if you want to open a cafe named Rising Sun and you find out there’s a cafe with that name in your city already, you can name your business Morning Hour instead. However, if you name it Sunrise Cafe, it might create confusion for customers so it’s best to avoid it.
To come up with a name alternative, you can also try our Business Name Generator. You can generate thousands of business name ideas at a time with this smart tool and pick a new one that hasn’t been used by any other business.
How Can I Make My Business Name Official?
You don’t necessarily have to trademark your business name in order to run business activity under it. On the other hand, you do need to register a business if you start any sort of commercial activity, including the promotion of goods or services free of charge. Once your business is registered and you have received your Tax ID, you can legally run business activity as an entrepreneur.
Your registered business name doesn’t have to be the same as the public name of your business. If you open a sole proprietorship business that you’ll be running by yourself, your business name can even be your own name or any name that hasn’t been registered yet, including similar variations.
You can pick a brand name for promoting your business and products publicly and register it as a trade name. This will work as a sort of nickname for your business that people will know it by.
Why Does It Matter Whether My Business Name Is Taken?
If you promote a business or product name that’s trademarked by someone else, you can get into legal trouble. It’s not a great way to start out as an entrepreneur, and renaming your business later on can be an extremely costly process.
Even if the business name of your choice isn’t legally trademarked but it is used by another brand, it may create a conflict in your marketing strategy. For example, if this other brand has a substantial online presence and people try to Google your company, they will find theirs in the search results first. This means that you might lose your most loyal customers unless you invest a significant amount of resources into outranking the competition in your SEO strategy.
You also need to be aware of what people associate with a certain term or brand name. As an example, if your law firm name is the same or very similar to a brand name that’s known for promoting lingerie, it’s unlikely that people will take you seriously as a legal professional.
Always do your research first about your own business or brand name and run qualitative research in your target market to better judge its future impact on your reputation.
Can I Have The Same Business Name As Someone Else?
Two businesses that carry the same name might run the risk of being confused for one another. Technically, you can use the same business name as someone else so long as it’s not protected by a trademark but it might still carry some legal consequences.
If someone files a lawsuit in the future against you or your company for using the same or a very similar name, they would first need to prove that the two businesses can indeed create confusion for the customer. This usually means that the two names are the same or almost the same, they share a geographical market or audience, and they sell similar services.
If that’s the case, you would need to prove that your business started commercial activity under that business name first with any record that has a clear date of publication (an email can serve as proof too). If you can’t prove this, you might need to stop all business activity under that name. Renaming your business is usually a costly procedure and you’ll likely lose a great chunk of your audience in the process.
This is why trademarks exist as protection for business names, logos, and slogans. Note that even if you use the exact same business name as another company but they can be clearly differentiated due to a difference in location and business activity from you, you can keep using that name regardless of whether you have a trademark or not.
Can Two Businesses Have The Same Name?
It’s possible that two businesses carry the same name. This normally happens when they operate in a different geographical location (for example one being a cafe in Melbourne and the other being another cafe in Lisbon) or if they sell completely distinct goods and services (for example, a bakery versus a bicycle store).
Do I Need To Trademark My Business Name?
You can run a business legally without any trademarks registered. However, if you don’t have legal protection for your business name, you’ll be risking potential lawsuits from other companies in the future and you won’t be able to stop other businesses from copying your name, logo, and slogan.
At the very least, you should keep a record of your name being used in commercial activity in the form of any advertisements or products to prove that you used the name in commerce first.
How To Check If Your Business Name Is Trademarked
If you want to protect your business name from being used by others, you need to register it with the trademark office in your country. In the United States, this would be the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
To find out whether your potential business name is trademarked already, you can search in the database of the USPTO or the trademark office of your country where your business would operate. There are also plenty of international trademark and brand search engines that will help you with this.
Trademarks are normally registered within a certain geographical area and market but some trademarks can span across multiple countries through global trademark agreements. This means that trademarks are contextual, which is why there are often several restaurants with the exact same name in different cities around the world.
Besides a business name, a trademark can protect a logo, slogan, or some other intellectual property as well. However, not everything can be trademarked as some terms are considered descriptive in nature. Trademarks can also be challenged after being registered if their owner can’t prove that they are actively conducting business, i.e. selling goods and services under them.
With most businesses going online and competing for visibility on global platforms, trademark infringement accusations became very common. If you ever face this issue with your business name, you’ll need to evaluate whether both businesses share the same industry and geographical market, and who registered the trademark first.
Legal battles aside, what matters at the end of the day is not to confuse your customers. If there’s too much competition surrounding your potential business name, you might want to consider other creative business name ideas and save yourself the trouble.
How Much Is It To Trademark A Name?
If you’re in the US, filing a trademark for a business name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will cost between $50 and $600 without legal fees. The exact cost will depend on whether you’re only registering your trademark in one state only or across multiple states, as well as the type of trademark you’re registering.
What Happens If Someone Trademarks Your Business Name?
If you haven’t trademarked your business name, it’s possible that someone else will register the exact same name or a variant with the trademark office. If they decide to sue you, you’ll need to prove that you started your commercial activity under that business name before your competitor in order to avoid paying a fine.
However, even if you avoid being charged, your business will likely be limited to its current area of establishment which will prevent you from expanding it later. Trying to compete with another business that carries your business name isn’t doing any good for your marketing in the long run either, so it’s best to avoid it early on by registering your own trademarks.
Is It Better To Trademark Or Copyright A Name?
If you want to own exclusive rights to the use of your business name, logo, or slogan, you need to register a trademark on them. Both trademarks and copyrights protect intellectual property but trademarks refer to words, phrases, symbols, or designs that distinguish a particular brand from others while copyrights are more common to be used in the case of artistic products such as writing, songs, movies, and so on.
How To Know If A Brand Or Company Name Is Taken
An important fact to note is that brand names don’t necessarily have to be trademarked in order to be used — but it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to copy someone else. The internet has no borders so the more easily searchable your brand is on various platforms, the more guaranteed your success is.
One way to check whether a brand name already exists is to look for the domain with the identical name. You can do this easily with our free Domain Name Generator. This smart generator tool will give you thousands of ideas for a new website name and automatically check whether the domain with this name is taken already. This isn’t just useful for avoiding direct competition but also because you can’t really have a business today without a website, and the best domain choice is always your exact brand name.
Besides looking up the domain of your brand name, it’s also worth looking into variations. Run a quick search on your potential brand name online to see what’s out there associated with it. At the very least, you should check your brand name in Google, on Facebook, on Instagram, and any other major platform you’re planning to get your brand on.
What ultimately matters is not necessarily to own the only such brand name in the world but to lay the foundations for good publicity. If you find out that there’s a local bakery with the same name in Paris that you want to use for a wedding planner service in New York, that shouldn’t keep you from using it. As long as there’s no confusion for your audience, it doesn’t matter if the name is taken in a different geographical location or market.
How Do You Check If A Company Name Has Already Been Registered?
You can check whether the business name is trademarked in the database of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or the database of your country outside of the US.
What If My Company Name Is Already Taken?
Finding out that the perfect company name for your business or brand is already used by someone else can be very disappointing. Before you throw away your dreams or get into a costly game of competition, consider giving a chance to other creative business ideas that might work even better for your brand!
Our Business Name Generator is a free tool you can use to get thousands of catchy business name ideas for your new startup venture, project, blog, organization, community, website, NGO, or magazine. Just enter the words that come to your mind about your business and shortlist your favorite brand name ideas that you want to consider for your brand.