Congratulations on moving forward with your startup plan. Now that you are fully invested in your decision, it is time to decide your business name and check its availability in the state you plan on registering it in. To do this, you will need to use the state’s database that is available on its corresponding secretary of state website. This will show you if the prospective name is available or not. Here is a step-by-step process on how to navigate your business name search, how to view those results and what the results indicate, as well as why doing this is critical among a host of other need-to-know information concerning business name availability.
Checking the Secretary of State registry
For easy navigation to the secretary of state website of your given territory, go to www.secstates.com. Scroll down and you will see a list of all 50 states. These are all linked to specific pages about that state and include a direct link to the corresponding business section of the secretary of state website. Click on the location you plan on registering your enterprise in to be directed to that state’s specific page.
On that page, there is a link titled “[State] Secretary of State,” located under the “Search the [State] corporation registry” subheading. Click that and you will be directed to the secretary of state’s business page. This page will have a name checker where you will insert the type of entity you intend to register your startup as and the proposed title of your operation.
Business name availability
After inputting that information into the business name checker, search the results to view the business names availability results. If there are no matching entities found in the results, it means there are no state records of that name for that specific entity, in which case it is available and can be used for your startup. Should an identical or similar name be in the results, that would be unavailable to use in that specific region; therefore, you cannot register your enterprise in that region under that title. You can modify your search by changing it and checking the business names availability again. (Please note you may be able to use the same title of another operation in the territory if both enterprises offer different goods or services, or are in a different area.)
Before registering your DBA
Put simply, you may be subjected to legal fees if your DBA is identical or very similar to another’s within the sanctioned territory. Not only this, but changing your name to bypass legal fees will cost you time and money—redoing the signs, refiling under the given territory with a different (available) DBA, etc. Blindly filing a Doing Business As (DBA) will increase the chances of this happening. Searching the business names availability beforehand will help prevent this.
Other ways to conduct a DBA search
A simple DBA search on Google (or on another search engine) is a great place to start out, as company websites and domains using that DBA make it highly likely that it is unavailable. That said, this process can become futile fast since not all website domains match a company’s DBA, and the company could have the title registered in a territory other than yours (with no trademark protection). To streamline this process, it is best to conduct a search on the database via secretary of state business search page.
Checking the name’s availability largely pertains to Doing Business As registrations
A doing business as (DBA) name is a name other than your own or your partners’ names, or that of your registered LLC or corporation.
You need to notify the government of this change because that is the law. However, know that some states do not require you to register DBAs. You will find more specific information about this on the secretary of states’ websites.
Assumed names and its accessibility
Even if you choose an assumed name (one that closely describes your operation) for your enterprise, you should conduct a search, as all assumed DBAs still need to be registered with the corresponding province.
DBA inquiry extends to sole proprietorships as well
While you may not have to check your DBA’s accessibility and register it if it is just your personal name, sole proprietors should do a DBA search if they plan on using a fictitious name (a name other than your own).
Registering your new business in more than one state
Just because your startup’s name may be available in one state does not guarantee it will available in another. If you plan on registering your startup in more than one state, you will have to check the business name’s availability for the corresponding state. To do this, go to each state’s business search section to view the business name availability results. If you are intending to register your startup in multiple states, it may be wise to apply for a trademark to ensure your DBA is unavailable in all 50 states, increasing your protection. Even if you do decide to file for a trademark, you still need to do a DBA inquiry; if the prospective DBA is already taken or is similar to another company’s, your trademark application will be denied and your application fee will not be reimbursed.
Committing to and following through with a startup is an exciting step. After deciding on an entity, it is necessary to select your name and see if that DBA is available. While a DBA search may be common for startups, companies that are relocating to another region or are expanding their operation may need to run a DBA (and possibly trademark) search as well. Conducting an online business names availability inquiry facilitates this process, preventing unnecessary legal fees and wasted time and funds spent on redesigning and choosing an available DBA.
You can begin your search on our nationwide Secretary of State database homepage, following the mentioned steps listed above.