One of the first considerations in choosing a name for your new online solo enterprise should be to find out if someone else has already reserved and registered the same (or a similar) name.
You can hire this chore out to a professional firm if you have lots of money for such things or if you don’t trust your own research capability.
Handing this chore off would probably be a good idea if you were treading on thin ice with your preferred name.
For example, if you planned to register a name that is very close to a protected name, something like Amazon Jungle for your new book service, you may want to put the burden of proof on a company that will guarantee their results and have the legal muscle to steer the process through to conclusion.
One of the difficulties of determining if a name is available lies in the fact that some protections are afforded under our legal system for companies that have been using a name for some time already even though that name may not be registered or trademarked.
If you will be conducting business locally, it would serve you well to check with the county clerk’s office in the county where your business resides. They will be able to help ensure that there are no existing or closely similar names already on file locally.
The same goes for doing a search at the state business name registration office.
Your state will have a database of corporations and sole proprietors registered to do business in the state in which you practice your business.
Most of these databases are easily user searchable – the filing office will show you how. Sometimes this research can be done at your home . . . other times you will need to make a trip to the state capitol.
You cannot register a corporate name that has already been reserved.
Don’t forget to do an online search of the exact name you want to use as well since your state probably won’t be able to tell you about all the registrations around the country (and world).
By typing your chosen name into Google, Bing, or MSN search bars and others, you’ll be able to see if there are already businesses that have stepped in front of you with their name.
You may want to search the online “Who Is” database as well, for domains that have been previously registered.
Most domain registration services online allow users a platform for searching available TLDs (top level domains). You will be able to quickly determine which domain names are taken.
A word of caution, though: domain names are not the same as registered business names.
Bob’s Golf Videos (the registered business name) may own the web site URL at www.mygolfvideos.com.
If your name is Bob and you choose the name “Bob’s Golf Videos” because www.bobsgolfvideos.com is available, you could be in for a rude awakening when the other Bob, the “first” Bob, learns of your use of his registered business name.
There are lots of ways to register domain names if your chosen TLD is already taken.
By including dashes between words, you can expand the universe of potential names . . . but a word of caution . . . adding hypens or dashes may be confusing to some consumers – and that’s not a good thing – in the eyes of the viewers or the law.
Many will add “my” in front of a name if the exact words are already registered.
An “i” or “e” in front of the name is also a popular convention signaling that the business is an online or Internet company.
Other typical and popular prefixes and suffixes for online businesses (in this example, a music retailer) are:
Another resource for checking on available names is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It’s easy to see if a trademark has been registered ahead of you. Simply go to the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Business Center located HERE and follow the on-screen instructions.
Once you find the name of your choice, you may decide to register it as a trademark, especially if your business is in a crowded space and you don’t want others copying what you’ve planned.
We’ll discuss this subject in more detail in the future. The days of “easy pickings” for short, high quality, commercial intent keywords and domain names is gone. There are still lots of very good names available, but you need to be a little creative in discovering them.
To your online success,