The business name must be available for registration purposes, meaning that no other business with exactly the same name has an active, or up-to-date, registration with us. There can be businesses of record with the same name which are no longer active. There can be businesses in other states or countries that do business under that name. There can even be businesses in Oregon operating under that name, but have not yet registered.
In short, our records don't include every business that is using a given name. If the name is not already taken by an active registration, it’s available for you to register in the public record.
Check the availability of a business name in Oregon through the Business Name Search
application. The Name Availability Check function can determine if someone already has the name you’re considering filing.
What makes a name distinguishable?
The law requires the Secretary of State to accept names that are "distinguishable upon the record." That term means a business name is distinguishable if it doesn't copy a name already on record. A word or even a letter’s difference in a name can be enough to tell it apart from another name in the database. It's important to note that assumed business names are filed by county. The database can contain identical names which are associated with different counties.
Name availability according to OAR 160-010-0012
For purposes of the reservation, registration or use of a name under ORS chapters 58, 60, 62, 63, 65, 67, 70, 128, 554, and 648, a name is distinguishable on the records of the Secretary of State Business Registry office from the name of any other active organized entity, and from a reserved or registered name, if
Each name contains one or more different letters or numerals, or has a different sequence of letters or numerals, except that adding or deleting the letter “s” to make a word plural, singular or possessive shall not cause a name to be distinguishable;
One of the key words is different;
The key words are the same, but they are in a different order; or
The key words are the same, but the spelling is creative or unusual.
The difference in key words is between how a number is expressed, as a numeral, Roman numeral, or word representing a numeral.
Basically, a business name is distinguishable if it does not copy a name already on record. A word or even a one-letter difference in a name is often enough to tell it apart from another name in the database. In addition, an assumed business name is filed by county, so there may be identical names in the database, each of which is associated with different counties.
Protecting and defending your business name
Registering your name doesn’t give you the right to use it.
The law requires business owners to register a public record of assumed business names and entities such as corporations. However, the authority to use the name comes only through asserting those rights through use and legal action.
Registering your name doesn’t imply you can legally use it. For example, you might be able to register “Starbucks Coffee and Tea” with us, but the real Starbucks could still sue you. Also, someone may register a business name like yours but not exactly the same. That doesn’t suggest they have a right to use the name. It just means they’ve told the public they want to do business using that name.
Your right to your business name is established mainly by using the name in business and is enforced by legal action - not by the Corporation Division. This may mean you’ll need to sue in court to stop the offender.
If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to get an attorney's advice. Consider what the loss of business and reputation will cost if you don’t get professional advice. A visit or two to a lawyer will cost far less than the time and expense of straightening out mix-ups with the other businesses.
To find a business attorney, consult the Oregon Bar Association’s free referral service at 800-452-7636 or ask other business owners whom they recommend.