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How Do I Know If a Business Name Is Taken?

Tips to help you conduct a business name search.

Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation


Creating a business names is always an interesting step in the founding of your company. Sometimes, it is as simple a last name followed by a product. John Jones? Sell plastic? Jones Plastics. Done. You don't even have to pay me. Other times, names are more important, especially if the name of your company came to you fairly early. Even Jones Plastics, if thought of early enough, can worm its way into your heart. It is important to be sure and do a name search early on. That way you can pin your rose on Jones Plastics, and not have to settle for Jones Synthetic Clear Compounds.

Secure your unique business name.

The first step is also the cheapest; running an availability check. You can even, usually, do it yourself. Just visit your state's website, search around the Secretary of State portion, and find out what you need to do. Sometimes it is as simple as running a search, other times you have to fill out a form or call in. If you don't want to be bothered with that, or are worried about messing something up, try our business name check service.

So, joy of joys, your first choice is free. Or, if you are less lucky, your second or third option is. If you are not ready to form your business just yet, you can actually reserve a business name for a small fee. Again, you can do it yourself, or you can use another party to do it for you. The fees vary, as do the reservation periods, but it is a good option if you have your heart set on a name.

If you want to collect money or do business under this name, you will also have to file a fictitious name, or a DBA. This will allow you to open business accounts, file for a phone number, and begin advertising. You, or someone you hire, should register a fictitious name as soon as possible. However, keep in mind that this does not mean that you have exclusive rights to this name. If you want to make sure no one else can use your business name, you will have to file for a trademark. You should also be sure to register a domain using your business's name so you can establish a clear web presence early on.

Even if you do everything right, sometimes things do go wrong. After all, you are dealing with the government, and when has that ever been easy? Just keep in mind that until you get something for the state with your name stamped on it, everything is still in the air. So don't rush those business cards to the printers just yet. But if you follow the proper steps, and with a little luck, your first choice will be available and registered before you know it, and your rose can still be called a rose.

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