Choosing a business name for your new venture or project is a long-term commitment. You need to ensure that your business name will receive a positive response in your industry, resonate with your audience, and 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 determine whether it is available?
In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to check whether your business name is taken, so you can confidently settle on the one of your choice.
How to See if a Business Name is Taken
There are several ways you can check if a business with the name you have in mind already exists in the US, so we came up with a list of ways to check if your business name is available.
How to Check for Name Availability in the US
- Check if a business name is trademarked.
- Do online and offline research.
- Do a business name database search in your state.
- Do a “Doing As Business”’ (DBA) Search.
The above steps are for checking availability in the US The process will differ depending on the country you are setting up a business. For more information, contact your local government.
Step 1: Check if a Business Name is 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. Having a trademarked business name is highly important for business name exclusivity.
With a trademarked name, no one will confuse your goods or services with other companies. In case someone tries to pose as your company, you will have a legal right to file a lawsuit against them.
In the UK you can use the gov.uk trade mark checker to see if a name is trademarked.
Or if you are starting a business elsewhere, you can use the local trademark office in your country.
Step 2: Do Online and Offline Research
Besides looking for a trademark for the name you’re considering, you should also research online and offline whether a business is using that name already.
If a business uses the same name as you in the same field, it might confuse your customers. In turn, this also gives a legal basis for your competitor for a lawsuit against you.
It’s also worth looking into business name variations. Search for your potential brand name online to see what’s associated with it. You should check your brand name on Google, Facebook, Instagram, and any other major platform on which you plan to promote your brand.
Step 3: Do a Business Name Database Search
Most countries have a national or regional database of registered business names. In the US, you can check with the Secretary of State’s office in each state. And in the UK, you can visit the gov.uk website and use their company name availability checker.
Another way is to look for a domain with an 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.
Step 4: Do a “Doing Business As” Search
A DBA, or “Doing Business As”, is a pseudonym under which a business operates. This fictitious business name is different from the legal name of the business owner or the officially registered business entity.
Conducting a DBA search is critical in ensuring your proposed business name isn’t already in use. Visit your county clerk’s office or their online resources to search the DBA register.
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.
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, in the US, UK and other territories, 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.
In the US 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.
It’s important to thoroughly research the guidance to setting up a company in that country that you are setting up a business.
Why is It Important to Check if a Company Name is Available?
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 could 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 research your business or brand name first and run qualitative research in your target market to better judge its future impact on your reputation.
What Should I Do If My Business Name Is 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.
Do I Need To Trademark My Business Name?
You can run a business legally without any trademarks registered. However, suppose you don’t have legal protection for your business name. In that case, you’ll risk lawsuits from other companies in the future, and you won’t be able to stop other businesses from copying your name, logo, and slogan.
How To Check If Your Business Name Is Trademarked
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.
What Happens If Someone Trademarks Your Business Name?
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. To come up with a name alternative, you can also try our Business Name Generator.
Can Two Businesses Have the Same Name ?
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.
Note that you can use 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. So, you can keep using that name regardless of whether you have a trademark or not.
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.
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.
Can I Have The Same Business Name As Someone Else?
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 café in Melbourne and the other being a café in Lisbon. It can also happen if they sell completely distinct goods and services (for example, a bakery versus a bicycle store).
It’s not always easy to know if a business name is available. Use a trademark checker and resources and tools from your local government to help you discover if it’s available. Also, do a thorough check on and offline for the brand name. Look for similar brand names, which could cause confusion in a crowded marketplace.
If you need help with additional brand names, use our Business Name Generator to do the hard work for you.