Are you incorporating a business, and you need to check the availability of your desired business name? Before you get too attached, you should always ensure that it’s available to use in your state.
However, finding the right tool for your state can prove a bit tricky, because state websites are often poorly designed and confusing.
To make your job a little easier, we’ve provided a comprehensive list of business name search tools for all 50 states. Take a look at your state below to find a link to take you directly to your state’s search page.
GURU TIP: Once you find the perfect name for your business, don’t forget to register the URL so nobody can use it. Do a quick search through GoDaddy.
Why Is It Necessary to Search a Business Name Database?
In every state, there are laws regarding the naming of business entities. Specifically, no two businesses can use the same name, or even select names that sound or appear to be too similar to each other.
That’s why all 50 states offer comprehensive databases of every business name currently in use in that state. We always advise that our readers brainstorm a few different options for business names, so that you’re not starting over from scratch if you discover that your desired name is already claimed in your state.
In addition, if you’re not ready to incorporate your business quite yet, most states allow entrepreneurs to reserve business names for use at a later date. In most states, you’ll get a 120-day window in which to incorporate your business and secure your rights to your chosen business name.
Search Tools for All 50 States
To search name availability, simply click on your state’s tool below. Please note that most of these tools are provided by the Secretary of State, but a few are not. If there is any unique information you need to know about a state’s tool, we’ll fill you in.
- California (California warns that their online name availability search is just a preliminary search; you can get a full statement of name availability by submitting a letter of inquiry.)
- Massachusetts: Massachusetts technically has two searches, the Reserved Names Search and the Corporate Database Search. (You will need to search both databases to make sure that your desired name is truly available.)
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
How to Use the Search Tool
Finding the search tool is one thing, but using it effectively is another. Here are a few tips to make the most of the tool.
Once you’re on the search page, you should type in the exact name you’d like to use, but don’t include any entity type identifiers like “Co.” or “LLC.” Then, check the list of results for any exact matches. If there is an exact match, you’ll know that you need to change your name. You can also check for deceptively similar names, too.
To make the most of the search, you can also perform an optional keyword search. With some of the tools, you can perform an advanced search. So, you can use the “contains” filter (or a similar filter) to search a keyword within your business name. This way, the tool will pull up all results that contain that keyword.
This second search can be useful because it helps you know what names are being used by similar businesses. You can use that knowledge to make your name truly unique from those of your competitors.
Tips for Creating a Great Business Name
If you’re having trouble coming up with a good name for your business, we have a few pointers to offer. The first step is to make sure you’re following all applicable rules for your business name.
You might want to run a search of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s trademark database, as this ensures that your name is not trademarked in full or in part by another business entity operating somewhere in America.
The other major legal issue to keep in mind is that every corporation needs to have one of the following words or abbreviations in its official name: corporation, incorporated, limited, company, Inc., or Corp.
Beyond the legalities, we always like to remind our readers that your business name is your first impression with all potential clients, and therefore it should briefly describe what your company’s purpose is. For example, if you’re an electrician, you should probably have the word “Electric” or some similar variant as part of your name.
We also think business names work far better when they’re concise, as a name that’s too long becomes cumbersome for your customers. Also, you might want to consider how your name could be adapted to a domain name. In this digital age, even local businesses get many of their clients from Google searches, so it’s important to have a name that adapts well to use in a URL.
Overall, it’s also crucial that you personally enjoy your business name. After all, you’ll be seeing it and saying it frequently from now on, so it should be something that you like!
Guru Tip: If you’re still looking for a good business name, check out this name generator to find one that’s catchy and available for use.
There’s nothing too terribly tricky or confusing about searching your state’s business name database, but it’s an incredibly important step that you absolutely cannot overlook.
If you try to incorporate a business using a name that’s already in use in your state, you will not be allowed to form your business until you come up with another option that is available for your use.
All told, it’s important to not get too focused on one business name. We always recommend that our readers come up with a list of potential business names, so if your first choice isn’t available, you have other ideas to fall back on instead of going back to the drawing board.