Texas has specific rules requiring you to use a unique name when you set up a new business.
The strict naming rules that Texas used to have were loosened in 2018.
However, you still have to make sure your business name is distinguishable from the names of other Texas businesses.
Checking business name availability is an important step in the business formation process. Your business formation lawyer can help you with this, as well as all other aspects of forming your business.
How to Check Availability of a Business Name in Texas
There are three main ways to check business name availability in Texas.
You can call State Business Information at 512-463-5555. They are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time.
You can email the Texas Secretary of State at email@example.com and request that they check name availability.
You can also run an online search through the Texas Comptroller’s taxable entity search or through the Secretary of State’s SOS Direct site. The taxable entity search is free, but SOS Direct charges $1 per search.
You can also check Texas business name availability by fax or regular mail, but each of these options costs $5 and takes longer than a phone, email, or database search.
Preparing to Check Business Name Availability in Texas
Before you check the availability of a business name in Texas, you should be sure that your proposed name complies with the requirements of Texas law.
Identifies the Type of Business Entity
Your business name must include a word that indicates the type of business entity it is. The Texas Business Organizations Code lists the words that may be used to identify each type of entity.
- Corporation: “company,” “incorporated,” “corporation,” or “limited.”
- Limited partnership: “limited” or “limited partnership.”
- Limited liability company: “limited liability company” or “limited company.”
- Cooperative association: “cooperative.”
- Professional association: “associated,” “associates,” “association,” or “professional association.”
- Professional limited liability company: “professional limited liability company.”
Abbreviations of these words are also permitted. For example, the name of a limited liability company could use the abbreviation “LLC” or “Ltd. Co.” You can choose whether to use periods in your abbreviation.
The name of your company must be distinguishable from the name of another company. This requires at least one key word in the name to be different.
The following examples would not be considered distinguishable:
- Adding different articles or conjunctions (Fun Zone and The Fun Zone),
- Using a different business designation (Fun Zone, LLC, and Fun Zone, Inc),
- Changing the spelling of a word but not the meaning (Pizza Express and Pizza Xpress), and
- Adding punctuation, spaces, or capitalization that don’t change the meaning (The Fat Cow and The FAT Cow; Fun Zone and Fun Zone!)
On the other hand, the following would make a name distinguishable:
- Switching the order of names (Pizza Pie and Pie Pizza),
- Using a different form of the word (Pizza Producers and Pizza Products),
- Using the same words in a different language (The Fat Cow and La Vaca Gorda), and
- Using words that sound the same but have a different meaning (The Prickly Pear and The Prickly Pair).
If you have a question about whether your proposed name would be distinguishable from an existing business name under the rules, consult a Texas business attorney.
Business names may use:
- Arabic numerals,
- Roman letters, and
- These symbols: “ ! ‘ ? = + – $ % # * @ [ ] / () &
You can use both uppercase and lowercase letters, but superscript characters are not recognized.
There are certain words you can’t use in your business name or that you can use only with approval from a designated entity.
Prohibited words include:
- Lottery or lotto,
- Words implying that the business is part of the state or federal government,
- Grossly offensive words, and
- Words that imply the business engages in illegal activity.
A number of words require approval. For example:
- Veteran, foreign, disabled, Spanish, legion, war, world war, and other words implying that the business helps veterans or their families must be approved by an appropriate veteran’s organization;
- Bank, trust, bank and trust, trust company, and other similar words require written authorization by the Texas Banking Commissioner;
- University, college, medical school, health science center, school of medicine, school of law, law school, and law center require written authorization from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; and
- Olympic, olympiad, and citius altius fortius require written authorization from the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Words relating to professions that require licensing—engineers, architects, surveyors, etc.—may also be restricted. For example, to use the word “engineer” in your business name, you need to have a licensed engineer associated with the business.
Can a Lawyer Help You Check Texas Business Name Availability?
Adam Curley, the experienced business formation attorney at the Curley Law Firm, can help you with every aspect of your business formation. This includes choosing a compliant business name and checking the availability of the business name in Texas.
Adam has experience forming both small and large businesses and can help you get your new business off to a strong start. Call or fill out a form online to schedule a consultation today.