Once you’ve come up with a name you like, make sure it’s not already taken. Don’t actually start registering anything yet, until you get all the way through this entire chapter, Naming Your Business and Choosing a Domain Name.

  1. Check to see if yourbusinessname.com is available by doing a search at GoDaddy.com. If it is already taken, pull up the domain name in your web browser and see whether it is actually being used, or if it’s just “parked” (either completely nonexistent, or displaying ads but not delivering any actual content). Many people register domain names that they never intend to use, and put them up for sale instead. If the domain name you want is listed for sale, or simply not being used, contact the current owner and see what they’re looking to sell for, and don’t be afraid to negotiate them down to a price you’re willing and able to pay. You can find the current owner by clicking the “whois” link next to the GoDaddy search results. If you do decide to buy a domain from a third party (referred to as an “aftermarket” domain purchase), make sure the purchase is handled through a reputable aftermarket company.
  2. Check to see if the Trade Name is available in your state by searching your Secretary of State’s website – do a web search for “(your state name) Secretary of State.”
  3. Check to see if the Trademark is available Federally by searching the US Patent and Trademark Office website at uspto.gov. If the name comes up in your search results, check the details and note whether the registration is listed as “active” or “dead.” If it is dead, you may be ok to register the trade name for yourself, but do some more research first because you don’t want to end up registering a name that already has a bad reputation.
  4. Do a quick web search to see if your chosen business name is in use by anyone else for any reason. Even if it’s not actually their business name or domain name – e.g. if they’re using the name for a product or service, or if it’s the title of a small-time e-book, report, article, etc. – you may be better off not using it. Again, do some more research first because you don’t want to end up using a name that already has a bad reputation, especially if they’re in the same or similar industry as you. The only time I would consider using a name that is already in use online for other purposes is if it’s been a while since the name was actively used, and the it wasn’t very widespread.

Please note that even after checking all of these sources, it is still possible that someone else out there is already using the name and has it registered in their own state, but just doesn’t have the domain name registered, doesn’t have a prevalent web presence, and hasn’t trademarked or copyrighted anything using that name. This can still cause problems for you if they decide to pursue you legally, but as long as you’ve done your due diligence in checking the above sources, situations like this should be minimized.

Excerpted from:

Starting A Business 1-2-3
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Module 1: Research and Development