How To Know if a Business Name Is Available for Trademark

Written by Wesley Henderson

April 6, 2024

image of trademark stamps

So, you’ve registered your LLC. Congratulations!

Does it stop there? Unfortunately, not quite.

Trademark registration is a crucial step many starting business owners unintentionally (or intentionally) skip. Just because you have a registered LLC doesn’t mean your business name is protected.

Without trademark registration, someone else may be able to use the same or similar business name as yours. This scenario is legal and has occurred numerous times in the business world.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for business owners to determine if a business name is trademarked and what you can do if your chosen name is already registered.

Start With a Quick, General Search

The first step in checking the availability of a business name for a trademark is to conduct a quick, general search online. This quick search involves using search engines like Google to look for businesses with similar names.

You can also utilize social media platforms, domain name registrars, and business directories to do a quick look-up. These platforms can be valuable resources for identifying existing businesses using the same or similar names.

Look Into Your State’s Filing Agency

Most states maintain a business entity database where business names registered within the state are listed. You can visit your state’s filing agency website, such as the Secretary of State’s office, to search for registered business names.

This search helps determine if any local businesses are already using the desired name and if it’s available for use within the state. However, this step won’t help you if a name is trademarked in another state or at the federal level.

Conduct a DBA Search

A “Doing Business As” (DBA) search is crucial for sole proprietors or partnerships operating under a name different from their legal business name. DBA records are typically maintained at the county level and can be accessed through the county clerk’s office or website. A DBA search ensures that another entity is not already using the desired business name in the same locality.

Do a USPTO Search

One of the most comprehensive ways to check if a business name is trademarked is by searching the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. The USPTO maintains a searchable database of registered trademarks and pending trademark applications. Business owners can use the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to look for identical or similar trademarks that may conflict with their desired business name.

What Do You Do If the Name You Want Is Already Trademarked?

As mentioned earlier, an LLC registration doesn’t guarantee that you have exclusive rights to a brand name and logo. An LLC registration may give you a degree of protection regarding trademarks, but it’s usually insufficient since this isn’t the purpose of an LLC registration.

If your chosen name is already registered to another business entity, here’s what you can do.

Pick a New Name

One straightforward solution is to choose a different name for the business. If you find out your preferred name has already been taken, the path of least resistance is to cut your losses and choose a new name.

While this might require creativity and additional brainstorming, selecting a unique name can help avoid legal conflicts and establish a distinct brand identity. Thorough research is essential to ensure that the new name is not already used or trademarked by another entity.

Try To Buy It From the Owner

In some cases, the trademark owner might be willing to sell the name, especially if they’re not actively using it or are in a different industry. You can contact the trademark owner to inquire about purchasing the rights to the name.

Negotiating a fair price for the transfer of the trademark can be an option, but it’s essential to approach this process with transparency and professionalism. While this negotiation happens, it’s worth noting that it’s rare.

Negotiate a Licensing Agreement

If you really want to use your preferred name and would go through the hassle and money just to use it, you can open a licensing agreement opportunity with the trademark owner. This solution often leads to a lengthy and expensive negotiation with the owner.

A licensing agreement allows the business to use the trademarked name under specific terms and conditions, typically in exchange for royalty payments or other forms of compensation. This arrangement can provide a mutually beneficial solution, allowing the business to use the desired name while respecting the trademark owner’s rights.

How an Experienced Trademark Lawyer Can Help You

An experienced trademark lawyer can help you in numerous ways. From looking up the availability of your preferred name to processing the trademark registration and ensuring compliance with trademark laws, a trademark lawyer can provide valuable insights and support.

  • Trademark Availability Search: A trademark lawyer can conduct comprehensive searches to determine whether a desired business name or logo is available for trademark registration.
  • Trademark Registration: A trademark lawyer can guide the business owner through the application process, ensuring that all required documents are correctly prepared and submitted to the appropriate authorities.
  • Enforcement of Trademark Rights: A trademark lawyer can guide owners with the right legal actions if they encounter trademark infringement or unauthorized use of intellectual property.
  • Trademark Litigation Defense: In the unfortunate event of a trademark dispute or litigation, a skilled trademark lawyer can provide effective defense representation for the business owner.

Secure the Name You Want for Your Business

If you’re ready to secure your desired business name, it’s wise to consult a trademark lawyer. Contact our experienced trademark attorneys at Henderson & Henderson LLC to guide you through the trademark registration and protection process.

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