How to see if business names are already taken

Updated April 17, 2017

When you decide on a business name, it should not resemble another company name. The name should be original, easy for customers to remember, and make a statement. You must research the name you selected for your company to confirm it is not already chosen by another business. If you do not thoroughly research your business name you may be forced to order new marketing materials, lose money, and be subject to possible legal action for trademark infringement.

Use the trademark electronic search system on the USPTO website to verify if a business name has been taken. Access the PTO (Patent and Trademark Office) by going to Look in the centre of the website under the Trademark section. Click on the second link titled "Search Marks" within that section.

Read and make sure you understand the TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System) TIPS before viewing detailed information about searching trademarks. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Patent and Trademark Office, "The Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) supports the trademark application process by providing for searching the existing trademark application and registration information via an Internet browser. TESS provides access to the same text and image database of trademarks as currently provided to examining attorneys at the US Patent and Trademark Office via the X-Search system." After reviewing the TESS TIPS, select the preferred search option to begin your search.

Access your state's secretary of state web page online. For example, if you are a Pennsylvania resident you can enter "Secretary of State PA" into Google to pull up the Pennsylvania department of state website. Once there, look for "Online services," then choose "More Services." (You may have to take different steps to access the business search section on your state's website.) On the website, look under business or corporation search and enter your entity to confirm your company name doesn't already exist in the database.

If you are uncertain about performing the process yourself, enlist the services of an attorney. This individual should be well-versed in trademark procedures. You will be required to pay the attorney for the services rendered.


If you intend to keep your company for the long term, consider obtaining a trademark.


USPTO cannot provide information to you about how you should search for business names. There is, however, a Help section provided.

Things You'll Need

  • Your desired business name written down
  • Paper
  • Writing instrument
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About the Author

Charice McCray is a personal finance writer in Pennsylvania. Her articles regularly appear on She attended West Chester University and Drexel University. McCray worked as a registered investment representative.