Building a brand starts with choosing a perfect business name. The name should convey your brand’s message in the easiest yet most effective way to the audience. But before you officially register your company or file for trademark registration of your business name, you need to find out “Is my business name taken?” If you want to keep a distance from legal litigations due to infringement or duplication, it is crucial that you conduct a thorough search to make sure that no other company is using a similar name. Moreover, USPTO rejects trademark applications if your proposed business name is similar or identical to some other mark. But the question is, “How to check if a business name is taken?”
Why do I Need a Unique Business Name?
Your business or brand’s name is the first thing your audience notices about your company. And as they say, the first impression is the last, your brand’s name is what they will remember only if it is unique. A unique business name will help you:
- Stand out in the crowd of thousands of other brands providing similar goods and services
- Build a connection between your brand and customer
- Helps the customers to retain your brand name for future purchases
- Build your brand’s reputation in the market
Thus, a distinctive yet peculiar business name is not only a legal requirement but also a smart strategy to help your brand stand out from the crowd.
As the need for a unique business name is clear, let us see how to find out your proposed business name is available for use.
How to check if a business name is taken?
Let us see what “a business name is taken” actually means.
2 Entities with Identical Names
Under the law, two registered business names and trademarks cannot be the same (identical). This is true even if the company having the same name is a different business entity than yours, still, you can’t have an identical name. Thus, let us suppose you plan to set up an Inc. entity and think of a name. If the name matches with a limited liability entity, still you cannot go ahead with it.
2 Entities with Similar Names and Same Business Category
If two business entities come under the same business category, they can’t have markedly similar names. This criteria also applies to the names implying affiliation as well. For example, if there is an ice cream shop with the name “Yummy Ice Creams,” you will not be able to get a trademark with the name “Yummy Creams” for an ice cream shop.
Moreover, the rule also applies to business names differing just due to
- Using numerals or alphabets (“Five Sons” and “5 Sons”)
- Using plural and singular (Ice Cream and Ice Creams)
- Changing the article choice (“ A Coffee Shop” and “The Coffee Shop”)
Two companies located in different states can have identical or similar business names. But, you still need to not go this route unless really needed. The reason is that customers will end up confusing your business with others and the chances of getting into trademark infringement litigations also get high.
So, to be completely sure, it is best to conduct a thorough business name availability search to make sure that your proposed business name is not taken.
4 Free Tools for Conducting a Business Name Search
Once you have decided on the name for your upcoming business, the next step is to conduct a thorough search for similar business names. Here are top free tools for the same:
State business name search
All 50 USA states have their official tools for checking the business name availability. Such digital tools are run by state trademark offices and are available in the public domain, generally on the website of the office. Here are the direct links to some of these search tools. If you are from these states, you can directly go and check whether your proposed business name is already trademarked or not.
- Arizona Corporation Commission
- California Secretary of State
- Illinois Secretary of State
- New York Department of State
- Virginia Corporation Commission
All you need is to provide details about your business entity type and proposed business name. Moreover, some states in the USA have the option for name reservation. Thus, if you have a perfect business name ready but don’t want to register it, you can contact your state agency for reserving the name. Please note that the name reservation option is available only in a few states.
On the other hand, some states have integrated the search part with the business registration process itself.
Trademark Electronic Search System by USPTO
The TESS database by USPTO is the most comprehensive option for conducting a complete trademark search. This is a completely free tool that must be used to ensure your proposed brand name is not already registered at the federal agency. No matter how small or large your business is, TESS is the best federal trademark database of registered trademarks in the USA. You can check the TESS database and search for registered business names that are similar to your proposed one.
Google and Social Media search
Once you have searched for a similar business name at state and federal databases, searching on google and social media platforms is a must. A quick google search will help you entities with similar names that are not registered yet. This will also help you to find whether your potential consumer base searched for similar business names or not.
A quick google and social media search will help you to find:
- Whether there is another entity with the same name in another state not registered, i.e., without trademark rights
- What businesses sell goods and services similar to your brand?
- What is the degree of demand for your niche?
- Whether your search term is competitive or not
Search your proposed business name on various social media platforms will help you find if you can continue with the name or not. Make sure you search all platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, as well as LinkedIn. Even if your business does not have an official presence on these platforms, a social media search will not harm you. Moreover, if there are no similar names, you can even use social media platforms for taking our business forward.
Searching for domains is often overlooked while looking for similar business names, but it should not be the case. Search:
- Google Domains to check if your proposed domain name is available
- Flippa to check if the domain name is available for sale
If the domain name is already taken, you should consider changing the business name. The domain name is important as it shows up on business cards, emails, marketing, and other platforms.
After conducting the searches, if you find no similar names in the market, it is best to register the trademark with USPTO.
Can I do a trademark search on my own?
Check availability of a proposed business name in the USA is a complex process. No one website or tool provides a comprehensive trademark availability search option. The key reason behind the complexity is that a business entity can establish its business name as a trademark merely by using it. So, trademark professionals use a combination of strategies to dig out identical in-use and pending trademarks. Moreover, most of these free tools are incomplete, thus not providing a comprehensive trademark search report missing out on important business name trademarks. Even USPTO’s TESS federal database misses out on unregistered business names.
Why should you hire a pro for Trademark Search?
A professional trademark search firm comes with the expertise and advanced search tools to find available trademark names. If you have questions such as “how to check if my business name is trademarked?”, “Is my business name taken?”; then it is best to hire a trademark search firm.
Here is why:
- To receive a holistic trademark availability report before trademarking a business name
- Avoid liability for willful infringement and litigations
- To eliminate costs involved with trademark violation litigation
- Maintain your company’s reputation
- To conduct multi-country trademark searches
Why Choose TMReady?
“Is my business name taken?”
If you are a new business owner and have this question, then trademark search is the perfect solution. Hiring TMReady for conducting a comprehensive search for searching business names can be a great choice to eliminate the risk of infringement. By leveraging the conventional as well as non-conventional tools to find identical business names, we also help customers to protect their valuable brand names. Investing in a business name search will save time, filing fee of an already trademarked business name, and trademark infringement lawsuits later on. Got more queries? Visit us here to get all your answers.