What’s in a name? Well, when it comes to getting your new business off to the right start — plenty. The name you choose for your Limited Liability Company (LLC) or other type of business needs to indicate the nature and scope of your mission, while also being catchy enough to stick in prospective customers and business partners’ minds.
You need something distinctive to connect with customers, but without veering into gimmicky or otherwise off-putting territory. Your business name is such a big decision that many, many sites (including ours) have offered their two cents about the various ways you can approach settling on the right name for you.
What If the Name I Want Is Taken?
Now let’s say you spend all that time identifying the perfect name, only to find yourself trying to register a business name that's already taken. Even if a company with that name exists in another state, it may mean some additional steps are necessary before you can proudly open your doors and kick off your new venture. But don’t worry — here's a brief overview of the steps you need to take regarding naming your business, and what to do if your business name already exists in another state.
Check State Records
Before you get too deep into the naming process, the best thing you can do is do a little preemptive research. Most states have an online database — typically through their secretary of state — that you can easily search to verify available business names. With just the push of a few buttons, you’ll be able to confirm whether your prospective business name is taken or not. In some cases, you may be able to tweak your business name slightly to ensure your company’s name is unique. Many sites will also provide search results with names that resemble yours.
Expand Your Research
Once you have checked whether your prospective business name is available in your own state, it’s time to look beyond. After all, you may be planning to take your business nationwide someday (or at least into neighboring states). The obvious starting point is to Google your new business name. This will give you some sense of whether there is a prominent business that is already using your prospective name.
You should be able to track down contact information for any businesses that may already bear your name, and use them to investigate whether these businesses are still active. As we know, the small business world is a fickle one — if the only companies with your business name are no longer in operation, this could be your opportunity to proceed.
Consider Your Next Move
If you find that a reputable business in another state is using the name you want, you have a decision to make. For the most part, you should still be able to register that business name in your own state, especially if yours is a local business. You could also take your business into other states, as long as the other business doesn't have a presence there. However, if you do intend on expanding into the same state as that other company, you'll face some complications.
Registering a business name that matches an existing company is a clear violation of trademark law, and you certainly don’t want to embroil your company in any legal issues. So you can either keep your business focused in your own state knowing that this other state is strictly off-limits (at least for now), or continue the pursuit of your beloved business name. Whether this is worth additional time and effort is a personal call that only you can make.
Explore a Name Transfer
So you’re absolutely bound and determined to acquire full ownership of your prospective business name? Well, then it’s time to put that contact information you acquired earlier to good use. Because the other business currently holds the trademark for that name in their state, you need to reach out to the owner directly. It’s their right if they opt to transfer ownership over to you — in some cases, they may be willing to do so.
Of course, that doesn’t mean this will be free of charge, as the conditions will have to be worked out between you. However, consider it an investment in the future of your company, especially if you are convinced this is the best name for your business.
With any luck, the above steps will at least help you transition from an unavailable business name to just the one you need to communicate your mission to your customers. Naming your business may not have been as seamless as you’d hoped, but consider it practice for the future of running your company. Even though it won’t always be simple, the end result will provide you with the satisfaction you need to keep building toward greater success.
At Incfile, we know how essential it is to take the time to get your business started in the best way possible. Every day, we provide business owners the tools you need to confidently face the ever-competitive business landscape and pave the way for your future growth. Our extensive resources will empower you to take your business to new heights, and we have plenty of tools to help you manage your company and its growth strategy. To learn more about forming or growing your company, check out our website and get started today!
Robert Yaniz Jr.
Robert Yaniz Jr. has been a professional writer since 2004, including print and online publications. Much of his experience centers on the business world, including work for a major regional business newspaper and a global law firm