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How Do I Research to Make Sure I Can Use My Business Name?

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Question: How Do I Research to Make Sure I Can Use My Business Name?
You have found a business name you want to use. Now what? The next thing you need to do is check to make sure no one else is using that name. Here are some places to search:
Answer:
  • Google the Name
    Doing a web search is the place most people start when checking on a business name. While a general search can let you know if there are other similar business names, there are some more detailed searches you should also perform.
  • Search for the Domain Name If you want to use your business name as your domain name, be sure to check to be certain no one else is using this domain name. Either the GoDaddy website or Network Solutions is a good place to check to see if a domain name is being used.
  • Search Locally
    If you will be doing business locally, search your local phone book or online yellow pages (YellowPages.com, for example)
  • Search in Your State
    You can search YellowPages.com or other online sites for businesses in your state, or you can go to the website of your state's secretary of state and search the business name register database.
  • Search by Registering Your Name
    Another way to check to see if your business name is being used in your state is to attempt to register your name in your state. Go to the secretary of state website to learn how to register your business name.
  • Search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
    If a business name has been trademarked, you can find it on the USPTO website, in the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).

    Depending on how large your market (local? state? national?) will determine how much you want to search. It is a good idea to go through all of these searches, because they are all at no cost, and you can then be reasonably sure you won't be infringing on the name of some other business. There is no guarantee, but at least you have done your due diligence.

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