Choosing a name for your new business is exciting and potentially daunting --- you'll be living with this name for a long time. It's important to consider all the ramifications of your name choice. Select a name that best reflects your business, is simple and is easy to remember. But before you get too attached to a name, it's wise to find out if your first choice is available.
Decide whether you want to go through the startup process yourself or get outside help using such businesses as MyCorporation or BizFilings. They will hand-walk you through the process, conduct name availability checks, and submit your name request to your state for a fee. Having assistance may save you time and stress, but it will cost more.
If you begin the process on your own, decide what type of business you will create, as this can dictate the name availability. The Business Owner's Toolkit walks you through different types of businesses, such as the sole proprietorship or partnership (both named for the owner or partners), or limited partnership or limited liability company, which must be reserved with your secretary of state's office and include the type of business in the name (ie: "Treefort Communication, LLC.")
Check whether the name infringes on patents or trademarks by searching the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site.
Go to your secretary of state's Web site if you have chosen a business that must be registered within your state. Each state offers a search engine so you can see whether your name is available.
Search within your state for variations on your theme, such as your desired name followed by "Group," "Team," "Company" or "Limited" to be certain you've found a name that won't be mistaken for another business.
Even if you expect your business to stay small and local, leave yourself the option to grow. You will want a Web site that represents your business name. If there are no available URLs (Web site names) that suit your business, consider a different name. If you change your mind about the business name later, you can legally change a state-level entity by filing an amendment to the Articles of Incorporation for your organization. There is sometimes a small fee for the change, but it's a fairly simple process.
Just because your desired name is available in your state doesn't mean you should go with it. With today's online presence, businesses immediately cross state and even national borders. Search the internet for variations of your potential name to see whether it's already being used.