If you are just starting out as a small business owner then one of the first and most important steps you will need to take is deciding on a name for your new business. While coming up with a name may sound simple, the truth is that this step requires quite a bit of research to ensure your company does not infringe on the trademark rights of another company. To ensure you are in compliance with trademark law, you will need to conduct a business search by name to find out if the name you want to give to your company is actually available.
That's right, Google. While it may not sound very complicated, quickly entering your business name idea into Google can help you avoid wasting a lot of time later on. That's because there's a good chance that any active company that has the name you're thinking of calling your company will show up in some way in a Google search.
Now, just because you didn't find anything through Google doesn't mean that the name you are after hasn't already been registered. That's because many names are registered by small businesses without ever being used in public or, indeed, ever being registered as a trademark. Each state and county will have a fictitious names database that will list the fictitious names that have been registered to businesses in those jurisdictions. While such names may not always be trademarked, you should be extremely careful about choosing such a name that has been registered as a fictitious name.
Your state's filing office will have information about whether a corporation, limited partnership, or LLC is already using the name you are thinking of calling your company. It is extremely important that you not use a name that is the same or similar to one that is already in use by a legal business entity. Doing so is simply asking for trouble and could even end in your business getting sued before it has had a chance to get off the ground.
Remember that not all names that are being used commercially, including domain names, have been registered or trademarked. Taking a business name that is already in use but has not been registered can be risky and may result in litigation. Even if you can prove that you have a right to the business name, the cost of the litigation itself should be enough to guide you away from this strategy. A number of databases of unregistered trademarks exist to help you stay on the safe side.
Finally, you will need to check the database kept by the federal government, which includes every trademark registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Checking the USPTO is a necessary step in ensuring that the name you have chosen for your business is available. It will also protect you from any trademark infringement claims that could otherwise arise later on.
As you can see, coming up with a unique name for your business isn't always easy. However, by searching for business names that already exist, you will ensure that your own business is original and fully compliant with the law.