When you start a business, choosing a name is one of the most important decisions you will make. The one you choose should be unique enough to differentiate your company from competitors and memorable enough to stay top of mind. Picking the right name, however, is only half of the process; you have to ensure it's not already taken by someone else.
You'll need to do extensive research before you choose a business name—but this can be overwhelming. To make the process easier for you, we've created a quick guide on checking name availability and how to trademark a business name.
How to Check Your Name's Availability
It can be hard to keep track of which brand names are already in use, as hundreds of businesses are created every day. Luckily, you’ve got several online resources to make this task easier, from search engines to free trademark search services.
Follow these steps to see if your potential business name is available.
You can start by running a quick search of your business name on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines. This will give you an idea of how many different entities are using your name as their own.
If no results come up in your initial search, you can also try typing in your name plus the location where your business operates. This will help you find out if you have any competitors in your geographic area using similar names who have already established themselves locally and have begun marketing their businesses online.
If the name is already being used, you will have to make up a new variation of the name, or come up with another one entirely. You can use a tool like Namelix to help you generate a new, brandable business name.
Search for it on Socials and Marketplaces
Another quick way to see if a name is being used is to search for it on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Most businesses will at least have an account set up on these channels, so this is a good way to see if someone has already claimed the name you want. You can use a brand name online checker like Namecheckr to view results from all the most popular platforms at once.
On top of that, you should also look up your name on the platforms you want to sell your goods and services on, such as Etsy, Amazon, or Gumroad.
If you find any results through these brand searches, you will also be able to see how big or dedicated their following is. If they already have a substantial customer base, they may have a strong claim to the mark in line with common law, which protects unregistered trademarks or service marks. The mark may be considered “famous,” and it will be hard for you to use their name, or even a similar one without infringing on their rights.
Run a Trademark Search
For a more thorough check, you should run a trademark name search. This will help you see if anyone has already registered your business name with an intellectual property office.
You can conduct a trademark search through Digip’s trademark checker and get a free result instantly. Our algorithm conducts searches across a trademark database of over 180 countries, so you'll be able to see if anyone is using your mark wherever in the world they may be.
If someone has already registered your name as a trademark in connection with the same products or services that you offer, you will have a hard time using it to promote your business outside your home state, or even online. When a trademark owner feels your brand name infringes on their registered mark, they may file an action against you and you may lose the right to use the name entirely.
Do a Domain Search
After you've confirmed that your brand name can be registered as a trademark, conduct a domain name search to see if the URL you want is taken. If the domain is available, you can buy it on the platform.
If your domain name is already in use by another company, securing it will be more difficult. It is common for companies to purchase multiple versions of their website URL, as well as misspelled versions, to ensure they cannot be used by anyone else.
If you're set on using an already-registered domain, you can reach out to the domain owner and offer to buy it. However, not all domain owners will agree to sell.
Rather than getting stuck on one specific URL, try experimenting with other terms or registering your name using another top-level domain (TLD), like .co, .net, or.org.
If you don't find any results after running these four searches, it's probably safe to use that name for your business—but you should still register it with a trademark office to make sure no one else can take it.
How to Trademark a Business Name
Trademarking your business name isn't just about protecting the name itself—it's also about protecting how you use it. Whether you're printing it on fliers or sending out emails, trademark law lets you control how other people use your brand so that they don't confuse consumers or undermine your brand equity.
protect your brand Here's a quick overview of the trademark registration process, which varies slightly for each trademark office:
- Trademark Application - You'll need to submit your completed application, relevant requirements, fees and payment to the trademark office.
- Examination Period - Your application will be reviewed by an assigned trademark officer. If any issues are found during the examination period, your application will be stalled until you resolve them.
- Publication - Your trademark will be published for opposition in the intellectual property office's official trademark bulletin.
- Third-party Objection Period - Other trademark owners will be able to object to your mark's registration if they feel it infringes on their rights. If any infringement actions are brought against your mark, your application will be stalled until all disputes have been resolved.
- Trademark Registration - Your trademark will officially be registered, and you'll be issued a registration certificate. You'll be able to use the ® trademark symbol beside your business name wherever it appears, conveying your ownership of the mark.
Once you have the trademark protection you need, use your marks in commerce and anywhere else they apply. Make sure to use them consistently in order to create a recognizable brand identity for your business.
Make Your Mark and Own It
Once you have settled on the perfect name, protect your business by taking ownership of it. You can do this by registering a domain name, trademarking your name and logo, and open relevant social media accounts.
If you are unsure of the next steps you can take, feel free to reach out to Digip. We have plenty of resources available that can help guide you through the process of owning your brand name.