Free Trademark Searches Get Business Started

As I prepare to launch an online business, I'm encountering the typical startup steps. Branding and naming are important; of course you should pick an identity with an open domain name. (Visit any registrar, or even to check.) But take precaution against having to change your name later by entering a trademark search, too.

I feel silly mentioning that a free website isn't as good as an attorney who will research and file your claim. But if you see that someone already has a trademark on your name before you even launch, you can save a lot of headache.

Just visit the . Click the Search link on the right, then use one of the forms. I just entered my business name into the New User Form Search (Basic) and left those settings at default. Since the search came up empty, I have a good sense that once I'm ready to hire an attorney to file a trademark, I'll be the only one requesting protection of that name.

Zack Stern is building a new business from San Francisco, where he frequently contributes to PC World.