Conduct a registered company search by checking with the county clerk's office or the state agency in charge of registering business names, such as the state's Secretary of State office. Many of these government agencies maintain online databases that the public can check for registered company or business names.
The federal government does not maintain a national database of registered business names. Different states' business name registration requirements vary. For example, California requires a business to register in the county where it does business, while Minnesota, Oregon and Washington require a business to register with the Secretary of State office. New Jersey offers business name availability lookups for a fee by calling a number, or the public can check the database of the state's Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services for free. Searches involving incorporated businesses can be done at the state agency level since all incorporated businesses must register with its local Secretary of State office.
To avoid duplication of business names, a business owner must first do a business name check to make sure that no one else has registered the business' name. If someone already has, the owner must use another business name. Registering a business name is typically known as making a "Doing Business As" or DBA filing because the business registers a DBA name that is different from the business owner's legal name. The procedure is also known as fictitious name or assumed name registration.