How to Find Available Business Names

by Alia Nikolakopulos - Updated September 26, 2017

Finding available business names is a relatively simple process that requires a quick search of federal and state registrations. You can use a name for your business that is not registered as a federal trademark and that is not restricted for use under your state business registration rules. Even if you find an exact match for the name you’re searching, it doesn’t automatically ban you from using the name. In many instances, you can use the same name, as long as your business is engaged in a different type of activity. State restrictions vary, so you’ll want to check with your state for details.

Choose a business name to search. You’ll need to search for a specific name, as databases with available names aren’t available.

Go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website at uspto.gov. Under the Trademark tab, select “Trademark Search” and choose one of the search options to look for the business name. Three search methods are available, and all are free, but the Basic Word Mark Search is the quickest and easiest method to use.

Go to the Secretary of State website for the state in which you wish to use the business name. Look for a name availability search in the business section. Each state website varies, but common areas for name availability appear in “Business Registration” or “Online Service” menus. Enter the business name in the search menu and review your results. Some states allow two businesses to use the same name as long as the type of business entity is different, such as a corporation and an LLC. Other states don’t permit any business names to be the same or similar, regardless of the type of entity. If both your federal and state searches indicate the business name is available, you can use the name. However, if either the federal or state search indicates use of the name violates a trademark or conflicts with state registration rules, perform another search for an alternate business name.

About the Author

With a background in taxation and financial consulting, Alia Nikolakopulos has over a decade of experience resolving tax and finance issues. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent and has been a writer for these topics since 2010. Nikolakopulos is pursuing Bachelor of Science in accounting at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.

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