One of the crucial steps of incorporating is making sure your business name isn’t already in use. Here’s how you can check that your business name is original.
When you’re forming your corporation to really launch your business, it’s crucial that you use an original business name that no other business in the state is using. It’s up to you to check the availability of the business name you want to use.
Of course, you may be able to ask your incorporation services provider to add these to their tasks, but that will also add to the cost. In fact, even if you ask these professionals to check the availability of your proposed business name for you, it’s still a good idea to check things for yourself. It’s not really all that hard, anyway.
Why the Need for An Original Business Name?
The main reason is that it’s mandated by the law. State laws say that no 2 businesses can share the same name. The names can’t even look or sound too similar to business names that are already in use. So, just because you’re also selling carbonated sugared water doesn’t mean you can suddenly establish your own Koka-Kola Company. That just won’t do.
This is why state governments run all these databases of business names already in use, so you can check for yourself if your proposed business name is new and original.
In addition, you should spend an evening brainstorming with your business partners so that everyone agrees on the name of the corporation. In fact, try to come up with several names, though you ought to rank them so everyone knows what the first choice is.
You don’t even have to wait to start incorporating before you come up with your business name. Most states let would-be business owners reserve their business names for later use, if they’re original and not already in use. These states usually give you 120 days to incorporate so that you can use the business name officially.
Databases to Check for All 50 States
To save you a lot of time and trouble, we already compiled all the search tools you can use to check the availability of your proposed business name in each state. Most of these tools come courtesy of the secretary of state, but not all of them, though.
Just click on the link for the state where you want to operate your business, and you’re off.
- California. Checking the availability of your business name on this database is just the first step, however. To really make sure no other business in California is already using the business name you want to use, you have to also submit a letter of inquiryto get the full statement of name availability>by
- Massachusetts: For some strange reason (and certainly not for better efficiency), you have to check through 2 different databases: the Reserved Names Searchand the Corporate Database Search. Only after you’ve tried both can you be sure.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Using the Search Tools
It’s not really all that difficult to find these search tools, to tell you the truth. However, it’s a different matter when you use them. It’s as if state governments are determined to make things tougher for everyone. Most of the time, these websites seem to have been designed by uncaring amateurs. Directions are often unclear, and the websites are definitely not intuitive.
Here are some tips that may help, once you get to the search page.
- First, enter the exact same name you want to use in the search bar. Don’t bother with the extra terms like LLC or Co.
- If the results come up with exact matches, then you know your proposed business name is no good. You’ll need an alternative name to use.
- Then you can try out very similar names to yours, such as slight misspellings and variations. If these similar names are already in use, you may want to consider a more original name for your corporation.
- Check if the search tool offers advanced search options, so that you’re able to find results that already contain your proposed business name. That way, you can then enter a keyword in your business name and find out how many other businesses in the state are already using that keyword. If there are already too many businesses using that keyword, then you may want to replace that word in your business name.
Additional Tips on Coming up with an Original Business Name
It’s always a good idea to get a list of about 10 possible business names. That way, if you discover that your favorite option is already in use, you have other alternatives to work with.
But coming up with 10 possible names isn’t always easy. Even a single name can be difficult for some people. If you just can’t seem to find a good business name, you’re not alone.
- It should be a name you enjoy and are proud to say. After all, you’ll be using that name quite a lot in the future.
- Make sure the name you want to use conveys the right impression you want to make. If you’re selling party decorations or toys, a wacky name can certainly work. But a wacky name just won’t do for a more serious business, like a law firm or a funeral parlor.
- The name should include a keyword that indicates the services you provide. If you’re establishing a tattoo parlor, then “tattoo” ought to be part of the name. If you’re offering plumbing services, then “plumber” or “plumbing” should be in the name as well.
- Try to keep the name as short as you can. People may not want to put in your whole business name when they try to find out more about your business online.
- See if you can use your business name as your domain name. That way, it’s easier for potential customers to find your corporate website.
Aside from using the state search tools, you should also look through the trademark database run by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This helps you make sure you’re not using any sort of trademarked name.
Finally, all corporations must have some sort of corporate identifier in their formal business name. That means your official name must contain the following words or abbreviations: corporations (or Corp.), incorporated (or Inc.), company, or limited.
It should be obvious to you why you need a unique business name that no other business is already using. If it’s not yet obvious to you, then just consider the fact that it’s the law—there’s no way you can incorporate your business with a name that’s already taken.
So, make sure you use these search tools to absolutely confirm that your proposed business name is unique!