Searching for a company name is a necessary step when starting a business. Using a business name that is not distinguishable, or that appears too similar to another business name may confuse customers and vendors. Most states prohibit a company from using the same legal name as a business that is already registered in the same state. Failure to search for company name availability could lead to a business lawsuit if a business discovers that you're using the same company name.
Search the United States Patent and Trademark Office database. This search will provide you with information regarding businesses that have federally registered their company name as a trademark. The USPTO allows businesses and individuals to search for a company name using the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Search System. Type the proposed name of your company in the database to determine if another business is using a similar company name. In addition, a company name search may be completed in person at the Trademark Public Search Library between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. The USPTO allows individuals and businesses to conduct a company name search free of charge.
Public Search Facility Madison East, First floor 600 Dulany Street Alexandria, VA 22313
Contact the Secretary or Department of State where your proposed company will operate. Most states allow individuals or businesses to conduct a name availability search using the Department or Secretary of State website. Conducting a company name search with the Secretary or Department of State will ensure that no other business is using a similar business name. Furthermore, it will ensure that another entity does not have a similar business name on reserve with the state. States such as New York require businesses to check company name availability by writing a name inquiry letter to the Department of State. Depending on the state, you may be able to conduct a company name availability search over the phone with a Department or Secretary of State representative.
Contact the city or county clerk's office where the business will operate. This will ensure that other local businesses are not using the same business name. In most cases, company names found on a city or county clerk's registry will consist of partnerships or sole proprietorships that have filed a fictitious business name with the city or county clerk's office. A fictitious business name allows a partnership or sole proprietorship to use a business name that is different from the owner's personal legal name.
Conduct a business name search with the Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau allows users to conduct a company name search on the Better Business Bureau website. Enter the company name, city, state and zip code. If the business name does not appear it may be available for use. However, if the company name does not appear, it could still be in use by a company that is not registered with the Better Business Bureau.
Browse your local phone book to determine if another local business is using a similar company name. Also, you can type the company name in a search engine to determine if the company name is in use. A company search may be completed by using the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website will allow you to search company names of businesses that trade stocks. Only company names that came into existence after 1994 will be listed on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website.