When starting a business, one of the first things many people come up with is a name. They may start doing business under their company name for quite some time before they decide to make it "official" by incorporating, establishing a bank account, building a website or ordering business cards. By the time they get around to doing these things, they may be disheartened to find their desired business name is not available.
When setting up a business for which you will not be using your own name, first check your state's corporations database to see if any others have registered that name to do business. If they have, it does not automatically mean you cannot use the same name, but if the name is being used in the same industry or same type of business in the same area, you may need to think of a new name. In many areas, if you do business as any name other than your own, you may have to file a "fictitious name" registration with the state.
A second concern with a name is to find out if the name is already trademarked. You can do a simple trademark search at the federal government's TESS website, here: http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=tess&state=4805:nxa6t5.1.1
If the name is already trademarked, look at what industry and location the name is used for. If it's a nationally recognized name brand, it may be best to steer clear and find another name.
Finally, but sometimes most importantly, is to find out if your business name is available as a website domain. A simple search can be done at godaddy.com. If you plan to have people find your business on the internet, your domain name needs to be some variation of your business name or the type of good or service you are providing. For example, if you are starting a XYZ paper company in Philadelphia and you need people to find your business on the internet, you need to find out if the domain XYZpaper.com is available, or XYZphiladelphiapaper, or phillycheappaper.com. If you cannot get your company name for a domain, at least get a domain name that is a description of what someone will type into a google search to find your product or service.
Of course, a small business lawyer can help you with all of these tasks. I offer name search services as part of my small business and incorporation packages. Email or call me today for help.
Sarah E. Holmes is a Philadelphia business attorney and strategist that helps start ups and established businesses looking to expand, protect their assets and increase their profits in an approachable, down-to-earth way.