How to Conduct a Business Name Search

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The first step to conducting a name search is to create the perfect name. (See article “How to Create the Perfect Business Name”). To conduct a proper name search you want at least three names to choose from, in case your first choice is not available. Once you have a few strong business names, it’s time to get started. The next, and simplest step to take when conducting a name search is to Google it.

Google has an extensive bank of reliable information about new and established businesses. Just type the proposed business name in the search bar, and examine the results. Be sure to check slight variations of potential ways the name could be spelled. I prefer google, but Bing, Yahoo, or any other of the top five search engines will work just as well. If everything is clear and the name isn’t being used, you are free to move on to the next phase. If not, continue this process until you find a keeper.

Now let’s take that keeper and add a .com after it. The key is to own all rights to the name you have created. I’m not sure about you but when I hear about a new company I’m interested in, I type that company’s name, followed by .com, in my address bar to see what I can find. Eighty percent of the time I find the company I’m looking for. Once your company begins to gain popularity, you’ll want potential customers to find you the same way. So remember “to own the name is to own the domain”. If the domain is available, chances are the name is available also, but don’t stop there.

The next phase is to search your local phone book and online directories. A few common online directories include YELP, Manta, DexKnows, and MerchantCirlce to name a few. New companies are being created every day, many of which are a sole proprietorship. Phone books and online directories allow sole proprietors to list their own company names without any formal documentation. So don’t be discouraged if you spot the name that you desire to use just be aware of that company’s existence. There is a possibility that the company could be out of business or never formally established a legal presence.

Next, you’ll want to search the online database of your Secretary of State’s website. In order to do an in depth search, an account may be required. Don’t worry, setting up an account is still free for now. Visit your state’s website and find the section labeled “Business Search” or something similar. After searching the entire company name, one tip that I’ve learned while searching for proposed business names is to search one word at a time. For example, suppose you’re doing a name search on the name “Great Popcorn Carnival” after searching for “Great Popcorn Carnival”, you would then search for just the word Great and view all the business names with Great listed within them to find a similarity, then Popcorn, and so on. Continue this process until you’ve searched each name individually. This process can be time consuming, but the effort is well worth it. After completing this phase you may want to reserve your business name, to protect it on a state level from 30 to 90 days.

The last step to take when conducting a name search is to search the database of the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). Names on the USPTO are protected on a national level. If you plan to conduct business only within your current state and do not plan to expand, you can stop your search at the Secretary of State’s office. Otherwise, this is a great step to take to conduct a more in depth search. The USPTO uses the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). This program is very technical and there are no guides on how to proficiently use the system, but there are lawyers and others that have mastered the process. If your budget doesn’t allow for professional help, do it yourself. It may be difficult but it is doable.

That’s all you need to know in order to conduct a business name search! There are many companies created to help prospective entrepreneurs to form and maintain successful business entities. 

By: Vincent M Cornelius II

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