Choosing a business name is an exciting milestone for entrepreneurs. It’s easy, however, to get wrapped up in all the planning without first considering the complexities of legally claiming this big, defining aspect of your new business. There are several things you need to nail down before you can officially call a name your own, and we’ve condensed them into five easy steps so you can approach claiming a business name the smart way. Don’t risk encountering legal complications or losing out on a name you love—start your naming journey by reviewing these five steps and following them to completion.
Step 1: Research
The initial step in deciding on and claiming a new business name is conducting research to find what’s already been claimed. Your research should include scanning popular search engines, checking registered trademarks and confirming availability through a public record search provider. This research is vital and will save you time, energy and money as you go about this entire process. Don’t forget to scope out your competition to ensure your brand name and visual identity are unique.
If you’re still in the brainstorming stage, consider the different types of names you can experiment with:
- Invented – fabricated or abstract (think Google and Bing)
- Abbreviated – a shortened form of, or an acronym for, a relevant phrase (think IBM)
- Metaphoric – evokes a quality, characteristic or symbol related to your field (think Apple)
- Descriptive – describes what you do or how you do it (think Microsoft)
How to Complete This Step: Conduct research on similar names through popular search engines like Google. Then visit the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to search business names and logo designs registered with the USPTO (note that some businesses choose not to register via USPTO). Finally, check official current name availability through a public record information services provider.
Step 2: Reserve
After viewing the results from your name availability search, you can choose to reserve a name if there’s any available. If none are available, you can repeat Step 1 to explore other options. Reserving allows you to lock in the name for 120 days to ensure no other business can swoop in and claim the name as their own. Although 120 days is typical, this reservation period can vary by state.
How to Complete This Step: Submit your name reservation through a public record information services provider.
Step 3: Design
Since you’ve already done the research on the direct competitors and leaders in your industry, you know what the competition looks like. Looking for existing logo trademarks and reserving your name lets you explore logo design options with confidence. Aim to create a unique logo and a visual identity system that is engaging, memorable, meaningful and leaves room for change as your business expands. At this stage, you’ll want to consider any sub-brands and defining products and services that might need logos or modified logos of their own.
How to Complete This Step: Work with an in-house team of graphic designers or a marketing agency to brainstorm branding at the corporate brand, sub-brand or product level and finalize design concepts and use preferences.
Step 4: Register
After reserving the name of your choice, you’ll need to register it through the Doing Business As (DBA) process if you’re using a fictitious business name. Registering informs the state of your active status as a business under a name different from your personal name or the legal name of your partnership or corporation. Depending on where you’re located, you may need to register your DBA name with the state, county, city or municipality.
How to Complete This Step: Visit your Department of State website for state registration forms and contact them to inquire about other registration needs.
Step 5: Trademark
Now it’s time for protection at the federal level. Trademarking your business name and any words, symbols or logos you want to claim as your own is an important step in establishing a new company nationally. This prevents other companies across the nation from using material that defines your brand and products or services.
How to Complete This Step: Apply online through the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Other Things to Consider
In addition to taking these five formal steps, there are a few other things you might want to consider during or after this process:
- Register a domain name for your new website through ICANN accredited registrars like Google and GoDaddy to protect your online brand presence.
- Claim your brand on popular social media channels by creating accounts ahead of time to avoid complicated or inconsistent user names across channels.
Ready to check the availability of a business name and reserve yours today through the state? Search up to three names and reserve one for the next 120 days with State Capital Title & Abstract Co. For one price, you can get your business started now—before someone else claims your future.