Q:

How do I find out if a company name exists?

A:

Quick Answer

If you want to name your limited liability company, limited partnership or corporation, visit your respective Secretary of State website to learn the specific process in your state. You can also conduct a trademark search online by visiting the U.S. Small Business Administration website.

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Full Answer

The Secretary of State websites show citizens how to name a new company legally in their particular state. For example, the California Secretary of State website informs prospective business owners residing in California to mail a completed Name Availability Inquiry Letter to the Secretary of State’s office. The website warns that checking name availability does not have any binding effect on the California Secretary of State, nor does it allow applicants any rights to a name. A name can only be adopted if it is proved, according to state records, not to be the same or too similar to an existing name, and is not misleading to the public. You can reserve the name for 60 days before adopting it.

The process is different in different states, however. For example, the New York Department of State provides New York citizens with an online service known as the Corporation and Business Entity Database online search, and the search covers those entities already on file with the Department of State.

The Secretary of State does not check names against trademarks. Various websites, including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, provide trademark search services. It is important to conduct this search because businesses pay high costs for trademark infringement.

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