Business owners should make sure the name they want to use for the business is available before doing business under that name. This is different from registering the business name as a trademark. Registering the business name as a trademark does not entitle the owner to use the name for the business. Business owners can check name availability on the state’s Secretary of State website.
Business owners should also be careful not to operate under a business name that would infringe on another business’s trademark. Business owners can check what trademarks have been registered in the U.S. by searching the database on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) website. The USPTO maintains an online search tool called the Trademark Electronic Search System (“TESS”). Generally, if there is another business operating under the same or similar name as the name you plan to use to sell the same or similar products or services and this would be confusing to consumers, you run the risk of infringing on the trademark of that other business. You should consult with a qualified lawyer to understand the risks of trademark infringement and how to ensure you do not infringe on the trademark rights of another business owner.
Most states in the U.S. require business entity names to include one of the permitted suffixes in its legal name to indicate the entity type (also called “entity designator” or “entity indicator”) like “Incorporated,” “Inc.,” “Limited Liability Company,” “LLC,” or “Foundation.” States also prohibit certain terms to be used in business entity names. Be sure to check the state’s Secretary of State website for instructions on how to format your business entity name.