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Determining the Availability of Your Chosen Brand Name

Make sure that the brand name you love for your business isn’t too similar to an existing business's brand name or trademark in your market area. Do your own initial name-availability search before you start the legal process of brand name adoption:

  1. Conduct a preliminary online search for the name.

    Start by entering your desired name plus .com in the address line of your Web browser to see if you’re taken to the site of an existing business. Then, enter the name into a number of different search engines to see if businesses with your top-choice name appear in the search results.

  2. Search your state’s database of registered business names.

    This database is kept by the office of your secretary of state, corporations division, corporate registry, or a similar department, depending on the state or region in which you’re headquartered.

  3. Screen the name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which maintains a massive database of pending, registered, and expired federal trademarks.

    Click Trademarks, then Search TM Database. You can choose from several search options. For global and international information, go to the USPTO International Intellectual Property page.

  4. Conduct a preliminary domain name search.

    A number of online resources allow you to conduct a free search of domain name registries. Enter “domain name search” into your favorite search engine, ask advice from the firm that hosts your Web site, or visit sites such as Network Solutions or Allwhois to conduct free on-the-spot searches.

If another business already uses the name you want, you may still be able to use it as your own, so long as your market area or industry doesn’t overlap with that of the other business. However, proceed with caution and the understanding that you’re risking marketplace confusion by giving your brand the same name as another business’s brand.

Banks require that you have an approved name before opening a business bank account, and they can usually tell you exactly which government office to call for name registration assistance.

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