It starts with making sure the name isn’t already being used by a business that will be in direct conflict with your use. It’s important to remember that unless a business identity is protected nationally, it’s very likely you will find numerous other businesses using the same name in other markets.
To determine if the name is available for your use, start by reviewing your county records for “DBA” business-name filings. Also, contact your secretary of state office to determine if another business has registered the name on a statewide basis.
Use the Internet to do a general search using one of the national telephone directories, like Big Yellow (www.bigyellow.com). Also, use search engines such as Google to do a search for businesses that might be using the name.
If there are no obvious conflicts, start the registration process. By registering a business name, you establish some proprietary rights which could prevent a competitor from using the name of your business, or a similar one.
If you’re registering a business name for a sole proprietorship or partnership, the most common registration process is done on a county level, through the county courts recording office. Some states are now requiring business registration on a state level. To find out about the registration procedure in your state, contact the secretary of state or your local chamber of commerce.
If you will be filing a Limited Liability Company or a Corporation, all filing and registration is done through your respective secretary of state’s office.
If you’ll be conducting interstate trade, consider a registered trademark or servicemark. The trademark law allows national registration of “distinct” business identity marks. If you decide to file for a trademark or servicemark, it’s also advisable to consult a patent and trademark attorney.
ShopTalk 800® Business Consultant
National Association for the Self-Employed