Due to restrictions where businesses own the rights to their company name, you have to make certain that somewhere in your county or state, someone else isn’t operating on the name you want to do business under.

 Just because it’s not a well-known name doesn’t mean someone hasn’t already filed for the right to do business under that moniker, so you have to research it a bit to ensure you can legally own the right to that name.

 You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars investing in your brand name – having marketing materials or logos printed up – only to be forced later to stop using the name because someone else has already staked their claim.

 First, you’ll want to check to see if your Secretary of State has already registered the corporate name in your state.  You can do this by writing or calling them.

 You also want to conduct a trademark search.  You don’t want to violate any trademark restrictions, which could force you to stop using the name you pick. 

You can find this information by going to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website, located at www.uspto.gov and clicking on the “Trademark” button to search the existing trademarks through their TESS system (Trademark Electronic Search System).

Sometimes, a business name won’t be trademarked, but the use of the name on certain goods will be.  For instance, you might be able to use the name XYZ for your hair products, even though someone else has trademarked the use of the brand XYZ for their sports equipment. 

If the brand is highly popular, such as Coca-Cola, however, then you won’t be able to use it for your hair products because then people would assume the Coca-Cola company launched the line of hair products.

You can register the trademark for each class of goods you want to use the name on with the Department of State, and you’ll pay a separate fee for each.  Or, you can register it for the entire United States with the USPTO.

If you still haven’t found anyone using your chosen name, you want to look in the Yellow Pages and do a statewide search for a business operating under the business name you want.  Some companies don’t properly register their business name, but may still own superior rights to the moniker.  

Just because no one is currently using the name, doesn’t mean they don’t already have the right to use it in the future.  You can pay a fee and file a reservation form and hold the right to the name for a certain period of time.  Some companies will do this as they await the results from the trademark investigation.

If the name you wanted to use for your corporation is already taken, that can be disappointing.  But you can always try to brainstorm variations of the name so that it is slightly different from the original. 

There are some restrictions, however, as to using a name that would cause confusion.  Certain words such as “Bank,” “Olympic,” “Disney,” or “Assurance” might be banned in your state or restricted to people who obtain a special license or registration.

You can always avoid having your papers returned to you by calling the office of your corporate registry first to run the name by them verbally to see if it contains the use of any forbidden words.

You might register your corporation and then want to operate several different businesses under the shield of that corporate structure.  You can do that just by filing a DBA (Doing Business As) for your corporate entity and develop individual fictitious names for the various operations under the corporation.

You still want to promote the business as being both the DBA and the corporation, such as, “XYZ Enterprises, a division of ABC, Inc.”  This way the legal umbrella of the corporation protects your DBA.