22.10.2021

How to check if a business name is taken

Written by Tillie Demetriou

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Choosing the right name for your business is one of the first and most important steps an aspiring business owner must take. Before even registering your business, you should have this name-checked and approved.  

Deciding on a unique business name will not only help with your image and branding, but it's also a legal requirement. Unfortunately, there's been many cases where business owners did not do their due diligence. They spent hundreds, sometimes thousands, on branding materials like websites, personalized business cards, and stationery, only to find out that they were using another business' name illegally. 

If you choose a name that's not fit for purpose, you could be setting your business up to fail. 

What's in a name?

Before checking if your business name is taken, you need some business names to check. 77% of B2C consumers purchase based on a brand name [1], so choosing the right one is essential. Here are three tips for choosing a business name.

Keep it short and sweet

You want your business name to be convenient and memorable, so try and keep it on the shorter side. One way to shorten a business name with a lot of words is by using acronyms. An acronym takes the first letter of each word to make a shorter word. Some great examples of this include B&Q, OXFAM, and IBM. 

Be creative 

This is your chance to awaken your inner copywriter. Choosing a creative name can evoke an emotional reaction to your business. A company with a funny pun can make your customers giggle like Pho Shizzle or Lord of the Fries. Alternatively, you could play on your business's personality and vibe could help them better imagine themselves there. This will instantly grab your customers' attention and bring more foot traffic through your door. 

Many bar owners have mastered this, coming up with some of the best names to create a lasting impression. 

Can your name last?

Always keep the future of your business in mind when deciding on a name. Are you likely to grow and expand your business? Will your products and services grow? It's crucial that your business can survive these changes.

Imagine you're opening a retail store selling just paper. If you name this business 'Just Paper' and then decide you want to start selling pens five years down the line, you'll have to go through a complete rebranding process. 

Is my business name taken? 

Now that you have a list of short, simple, creative options for your business name, it's time to see if any of these have already been taken. 

Governments have differing regulations for naming businesses around the world. In many countries, you won't be allowed to register your business if your name is too similar to another company's name or trademark. You may also be forced to change it if a complaint is made. There are a few places you should check before deciding on your name. 

Check your governing body managing business names 

The first place you should check is the governing body that manages business names in your country. For example, in the UK, this would be the Companies House register. If your business operates in the US, you should check your Secretary of State website. This will help you see if there's another business registered with the same name or a similar name to the one you'd like. If your name is taken, then you may have to choose another one. This is why it's a good idea to have a small list of possible names. 

'Same as' names

If you have the same name as another company, you cannot use this name. 'Same as' names [2] includes those where the only difference to an existing name is: 

  • certain punctuation
  • certain special characters, for example, the 'plus' sign
  • a word or character that's similar in appearance or meaning to another from the existing name
  • a word or character used commonly in UK company names

For example 'Burger UK Ltd' and 'Burger Ltd' are the same as 'Burger's Ltd.'

But don't fret. All is not lost if you find that there is another company registered with the same name. There are some exceptions of when you can register for the same name as the other business. These are:

  • If your company is part of the same limited liability company (LLC) with the existing name
  • If you get permission in writing from the current company to use the name

'Too like' names

You may also be asked to change your name if someone complains that it's too similar to theirs. 

For example, 'Happy Foods For You Ltd' is the same as 'Hap-P Foodz 4U Ltd'

If this occurs, you'll be contacted by the governing body that handles company names. They'll advise you on your next steps and how you can handle this. 

Trademark Search Websites 

As well as searching through your government database, you should also check that your company name isn't a registered trademark. Businesses can trademark a number of things, including words, sounds, logos, colors, letters, numerals, and goods' shapes [3]

Different countries have different ways a business owner can check a trademark. Here's a list of the databases used around the world. 

UK: UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) [4]

Ireland: Oifig Maoine Inteleachtúla na hÉireann Intellectual Property Office of Ireland [5].

New Zealand: New Zealand Intellectual Property Office (NZIPO) [6]

Australia: IP Australia [7]

United States: United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) [8]

Canada: Canadian Trademark Database [9]

Google 

If your business name isn't registered and hasn't been trademarked, you're officially in the clear - legally speaking. But it never hurts to have a little look on Google, though, before you go ahead and register. 

A Google search can give you a great insight into what your potential customers or clients will see when they type in your name. You may also find that other businesses are registered without a trademark or that your keywords are very competitive, and you'll be hard to find on search engines. 

You'll also want to make sure that your Google domain is available [10]. If not, you may wish to contact the domain owner and ask if they would consider selling it to you. Alternatively, you can check on pre-owned domain sites to see if it's for sale and at what price. 

Social Media 

The final place you'll want to check is social media. Instagram, Tiktok, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have been proven to be effective platforms for bringing in customers. With over 3.6 billion people using social media worldwide [11] and 54% using social media to research products [12], your new business will need to have a social media presence.

Suppose your trademark is available, but you've found another business using your name on social media. In that case, you may be able to claim the business name by proving that you own the trademark. All you need to do is provide the platform with the official documentation. 

Set your business up for success

Once you have your business name and you've completed all the steps you need to open your business, it's time to start thinking about tech!

Epos Now offers state-of-the-art POS systems for businesses in retail and hospitality businesses. We let you choose the tools and insights to help your business achieve its goals. Designed to work as a complete business management system, you can control all vital aspects of your company from one cloud-based system.

Receive detailed analysis on the areas that matter to your business:

  • Review profitability reports based on individual product performance, trending items, best and worst sellers, and employee sales
  • View sales analyses on profit margin, cash flow, and other expenses
  • Access multi-award-winning inventory management systems that sync online sales and in-person sales for the most up-to-date stock levels
  • Automate stock purchasing, so you never miss a sales opportunity
  • Create and send invoices using simple templates and a built-in VAT calculator
  • Customer management systems that save customer contact details and shopping preferences for more targeted marketing. 
  • Schedule emails and SMS messages to be sent at the most impactful time of day
  • Integrate with the business automation apps that are right for your business
  • Simplify employee management for more efficient scheduling and payroll
  • If you'd like to learn more about our industry-leading software, request a free callback with one of our experts.

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