Naming Your Business: Free ideas for Naming a Business

Winning the Name Game

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Registering Your Business Name

Finding and registering your business name is an essential first step in creating your own distinctive brand.

Check for Availability of Your Business Name

After you come up with a list of possible names for your new venture, make sure that you find an available business name. For one thing, you don't want anyone to confuse your business with another company. And you certainly want to avoid any situation where some big corporation decides that you're infringing on its name and then gives you a lot of legal grief.

Below you'll find a guide to determining availability and registering your name.

  • Research names in government databases and on the Internet

    To make sure your business is never confused with another company, conduct a thorough name and trademark search. To find out whether your proposed business name is available, start with the alphabetical business listings in the White Pages. If the names you like aren't there, continue your search using:

    • Fictitious name databases, which can be found in your county clerk's office and should hold all the names under which local companies do business. In some states, there are statewide fictitious name databases. When you decide on a name, you'll want to register it this way, too. If a name you like is already taken by someone else in a different part of the state, but not in your county, you may be able to use it as well. Ask the people who work for the county clerk's office or the people in your state's secretary of state office.
    • Corporation, limited liability corporation (LLC), and limited partnership name databases, which can be found in state filing offices and are now often online. Whether or not your business is one of these types of companies, you'll want to make sure that the name you want isn't taken by some other company in these databases. Why? These companies can be a pain when they think a name comes close to what they call themselves. Searching these databases can avoid potential problems.
    • The Internet is a superb research tool. It may not always give you access to business names in government databases, but using popular search engines will help you narrow your list of names. It also helps to use advanced search options you'll find with these services, or you may get information about things that have little to do with a family business.

As you do your research, keep in mind that even if a business in another state or county has the same name you want, it doesn't mean a particular name is off-limits. You may only need to make sure that a particular name isn't trademarked and doesn't represent a company offering the same things as your business.

  • Researching trademarked names will protect your business

    And speaking of trademarks, that little symbol often stands for something pretty big. Legally it can stand for a word, phrase, design, or symbol used to market a product or service-if the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) says so. Most states register trademarks for regional businesses through their secretary of state offices. Also, you should know that the ™ symbol means that a company claims ownership of a particular name, while an ® symbol means that the name has been registered and is definitely owned by someone else.

  • Getting your business online means reserving a name on the Internet

    If you plan on having a Web site for your business, then you'll want to have a domain name that will at least reflect part of the name of your new venture. Because people increasingly look online for businesses, what you discover on the Internet may help you narrow down your naming choices. You may also want to consider going back to your earlier research to see if any of the business names you're considering are already used as Web site addresses. All of this also helps keep other businesses from horning in on what you plan to offer.

  • Registering your business name makes it official

    You're going to feel like celebrating once you find an available and appropriate name, because your business idea will have just taken an important first step toward becoming reality. In fact, if you plan to run a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you may already be there if your business name is the same as your own given name, as in "Henry Gorman, Balloon Artist.

If you plan on operating under a name that isn't the same as your own, you'll need to register a fictitious business name with your county clerk. And if you're starting a corporation, LLC, or limited partnership, your official business name will be automatically registered when you file your articles of incorporation, articles of organization, or statement of limited partnership with your state filing office.

You may also want to trademark your business name (and, later, the logos and other designs you use to represent your venture) in your state or on the federal level.

Courtesy of –a free website and community from MyCorporation, Intuit that helps new businesses start and succeed.

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