How to Find out If Your Business Name Is Available or Already Taken?
Choosing an appropriate name for your business is a big milestone at the beginning of starting your own business. The chosen name should reflect your intended branding and the emotions you like to associate with it. It should also be easy to remember so it “sticks” in the minds of your customers and clients. Coming up with such a name can be time-consuming and demotivating at the same time. As such, the last thing you want to find out after discovering a great name is that it is already in use.
Before you make your final judgement for a particular name, it is recommended to check if it is already registered or still available. There is a procedure to follow if you want to end up with a business name which works for the long run. You need to check if the business name is already registered as a company name, trademark, or otherwise used. If there are no obstacles in your way, continue with the registration. You can also reserve the name ahead of actually launching your business, if you aren't ready to launch your business officially yet. This will stop other people from using it. So, how do you find out if a business name is already registered?
Costs of checking business names
With governments worldwide providing the mentioned services, all availability checks should be free of charge. This goes for the company registers as well as the trademarks — both can be use for free. If a web-service charges you money for a individual and personalized search service beyond simple, automated access to the same government services the case might be different. These services are left out here to keep your starting costs low. No costs should evolve from the searches below.
Step 1: Legal availability of your business name: trademarks and company registers
Registering a business name which is too similar to or almost the same as an already existing company is risky from a legal point of view and not recommended. The company register will deny registration when two companies might be mixed up. Also, the other business might file an infringement lawsuit demanding the change of your business name. We all can relate to how stressful this can be, especially when the business is otherwise already progressing well. To avoid such complications when your business is already thriving, you can always check whether or not the name is already registered legally.
Verifying legal availability of business names in Europe
There are more than 11 million registered trademarks in Europe. It is important to check if your mark is already registered by someone else. To do so, go to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EQUIPO) website. You will access two tools: “eSearch plus” and “TMview”. eSearch plus grants access to the EQUIPO database where you can search to find out if a particular trademark is already registered or not. TMview database has the information about the EU national Intellectual Property (IP) offices in the EU to search for other intellectual property. It's recommended to check both to be on the safe side.
In the European Union, Companies are registered individually in each country and can't be checked in one search. Similar to the United States, you can find the company register with a simple online search. "company register" + your country should give you promising results.
Legal availability of business names in the United States
Checking if a given name is already trademarked is highly recommended for any aspiring founder. To check for the trademark registration status, you can use a commercial search service for trademarks. But this isn't needed. You can conduct a search by yourself as well. You can go directly to Trademark Office and use their search engine Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). The searches are free of charge, faster and often more up to date than commercial services.
In the US the registration of companies is a duty of the states. This means the process is not the same across all the states. In many states, you can check the availability of company names in online databases. If a name is not already in use in one state, this doesn't mean that it is available for use. Continue with your search with trademarks as mentioned above. It's always advisable to check the trademark office in addition to the state-level company register.
Checking availability of trademarks and company names in Canada
Canadians can use the 'Canadian Trademarks Database' for free to check if a given trademark is already in use. Visit the site and query the database. This website has made it simple as you just conduct a search using the keyword that you have in mind. If the search returns no result, then you can be sure that the name or phrase is not already trademarked.
The process and tools across Canadian provinces vary. Some provide a direct search while others only provide information on how to search. Here are the links to the relevant government websites in the provinces:
- Alberta: Corporate registry search
- British Columbia: Name search
- Manitoba: Companies search
- Saskatchewan: Existing businesses search
- New Brunswick: Corporate affairs registry search
- Newfoundland and Labrador: Request a name search
- Northwest Territories: Corporate registry search
- Nunavut: Business search
- Prince Edward Island: Corporate/business names registry
- Yukon Territory: How to find out what names are available
Before you spend effort establishing your business, you should take this opportunity just to be sure that your business name is actually available. Read on to learn the easiest way to do this.
Step 2: Check if domains and social usernames are available
Having the legal side in order is the first step. The next step is making sure your desired company name is (in some variation) available as a domain name and on the desired social media channels. This means surfing around the internet and trying different variations for your new brand.
Checking domain names and usernames on social networks one-by-one is very time-consuming. You will need to go from one website to the next, enter your desired name, submit the search and wait every time. It is very tiresome and often frustrating, as your names are often already in use. Your desired names are not available on social media platforms as many names have been used before or simply registered for fun.
However, not all is lost as there are tools built to automate this process. Our own name check tool tool is one of them. It will deliver you fast and reliable results for your desired names. You can check both domain names and usernames at once. You also can get suggestions for alternatives as well. This should make your search easier and less stressful. After the first search you can tweak the desired networks under the “cog” symbol. With this in your toolbelt you should be able to find out if your desired names are still available in minutes instead of hours.
A proposed business name can by no means be identical to an already existing one. Even a deceptive name is not permitted by law. You should check for the legal availability of the name as described in this article. If the outlined methods do not fit your situation, then consult with your country officials to be on the right side of the law. Remember coming up with an appropriate business name which is not already in use is the objective.