How to Research Your Business Name

If you have a particular name that you want to use or are already using for your business, it is important to act quickly to find out if anyone else is using that name. There a few simple research steps and searches that you can do yourself, right now, which can give you a better idea of the status of your business name.

Before getting started with these steps, it is essential to remember that you perform several different searches. Try alternative spellings, as well as putting in additional words that might make sense to be included within the name. Basically, you want to try and search for anything that might sound like or get confused with the name that you have selected.

The first step is easy enough, simply run a few searches with an online search engine, like Google, of the business name. Pay attention to the results for not only exact name matches but similar matches that are making or performing related goods or services to what you had in mind with the name.

Next you can try going to a domain name registration site, such as, and entering in your business name into the domain name search. This will let you know whether or not someone already owns that website domain. Remember to take note that even if your preferred domain like .com is available, be sure to look through the other search results to see if someone is using your business name in another domain like .net, .us or others.

Digging in a bit deeper with your research, you should go to the U.S. Patent Office website. Here you will be able to see if someone has previously trademarked your business name. To run the search, go to, then click on “Basic Word Mark Search” and start running different searches to see what names have been trademarked.

Now that you have searched the national trademark database, you will want to narrow down your research more locally. You can do this by visiting the website for the Office of the Secretary of State for each state that you are or might do business in. For example, the Colorado Secretary of State website is, and from there you can select “Businesses, trademarks, trade names,” then click on “Search business database.” Now you can run searches to see trademarks, trade names, and business names.

Following these steps will help you go from a broad to narrow perspective in your research, so that you can hone in on what exactly is happening with a particular business name. With all of this new information in hand, you can begin thinking more seriously about what to do next with your business name.

If you have any questions about what your research turned up or if you are ready to take the next step in forming your business or protecting a business name, do not hesitate to reach out to the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, PC, the home of your Denver Business Lawyer, Elizabeth Lewis at 720-258-6647 or email her at

Brewery trademark troubles brewing

In yet another brewery trademark case, this week it was announced that Kettle and Stone Brewery based in Boulder will be changing its name. The reason? Stone Brewing Co. out of California believed that the name could be confused with its more established brand.

This isn’t the first case that has involved breweries. In the last few years, cases have surfaced in the news about Strange Brewery out of Denver, Oskar Blues out of Longmont, and Left Hand Brewery out of Longmont. One of the more notorious cases even resulted in a new beer – Collaboration Not Litigation was the result of two breweries who combined their same named beers rather than go to court over the matter.

So how do you make sure the name you want to use isn’t going to infringe on someone else’s name? The first step is to do a basic Google search of the name. If when you search for the name you want to use, it comes up in Google as being used by someone else in the same or similar industry you probably want another name. The second step is to do a search through the USPTO. Again, if the name comes up as being used in the same or similar industry, probably another name is best. However, if you don’t find anything then the next step is to talk to an attorney that works with trademarks. The attorney can have a formal trademark search run to see if there are any issues and help you through the trademark process.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call me, your Denver Small Business Attorney, at 720-258-6647.

Identifying Internet Scams

Today was a great day – rain was falling in our state which had been dry for weeks.  It was the beginning of a great week.  We had just celebrated the Fourth of July and I had been on a slight vacation – partially by chance and partially due to health.  I was glad to be back to a full work week.

However, my first week back to work was quickly brought down by a phone call.  This person alerted me that someone was using my information to sell items through  This person is stating that she is an attorney located in Denver Colorado and must sell items through kijiji (the Canadian version of our Craiglist’s) such as instruments and machinery. The person is saying that the buyer should go through a site called sell2pal and submit all the money in advance and then the items will be shipped to them.

I have never sold on the kijiji website.  I have also never sold to anyone in Canada. Needless to say, this made me realize how easy it is to become a victim of identify theft.  So, in addition to saying if you are buying large items though kijiji I recommend you don’t if it is through someone saying they are an attorney in denver named Elizabeth Lewis, I recommend in any case you do the following:

  1. Never send money up front – especially large sums of money.
  2. Make sure you know who you are dealing with.  If you are going to be making a large purchase, the person should have a name, number, address, and other information that is verifiable.
  3. If you are making a large purchase and must put money down, have an agreement to go through any escrow agent to hold the funds before delivery of the item.
  4. Lastly, if a deal seems to good to be true, it probably is.

And, finally, if you get contacted by someone saying they are lizzyhome at, run the other way.  I’ve never gone by Lizzy and am not selling items in Canada.  Use some common sense.  Do some research.  Call the supposed person you are buying from.  And, no, I am not selling anything at this time – especially not to anyone in Canada!

Can I do that? Social media investigations in the hiring process.

As an attorney that frequently speaks on social media, online law, and other techy legal issues, I get asked by employers what they can and can’t do as far as investigating applicants online.  Unfortunately, the answer really varies on the specific circumstances.  However, in most cases, employers should follow at least the following basic rules:

  1. Don’t do anything online that you can’t do offline.  For instance, do not use information you find online to discriminate against a potential new hire.  If you cannot discriminate against someone due to having children offline, you can’t research whether they have children online.
  2. You may be required to tell individuals where you get information about them during the interview process.  If you are going to hire a company to research online sources to find out more about applicants, check with your attorney to determine if you must reveal this under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  3. After hire, make sure you clearly state what you expect from employees both on and off the job regarding the use of social media.  For instance, do you need to worry about complying with the FTC endorsement rules (i.e. if your employee says good things about you do the disclose the employment status)?

Depending on the number of employees you have and the type of business you have, you may need to have a policy on both using social media in the hiring process and after hire.  If you are hiring employees, or have employees and haven’t thought about whether you need a policy before this, contact me, your Denver Small Business Lawyer today to find out if you need one today.

Privacy Policies and Your Business Website

Last week, I talked a little about terms of use and why your website needs one. The TOU is only one of several documents that most website needs – websites typically also need privacy policies and copyright policies. Today you get to learn a little about what privacy policies are and when websites need them.

What is a privacy policy?

A privacy policy explains what you as the website owner do with the information you gain about website users. For instance, you may gain information about people through web-logging software such as Google Analytics. You may ask users to submit their names, birth dates, or email addresses to your site. You may request credit card payments from users or mailing addresses. All of this information collected will be used for various things. You may use someone’s name for both the username on the account and to mail them direct mail. You may collect analytic information to sell to marketers. A good privacy policy will go over what you collect, how you use it, how others use it, and where it will end up.

Does every website need one?

Most websites need privacy policies. Almost all websites collect some type of information. If you believe you do not need a privacy policy, it is always best to run this by an attorney to make sure it is true. Many privacy policies are fairly boiler plate; however, it is important to ask your attorney if there are any issues that aren’t addressed in your particular situation that should be as boiler plate text only works to a certain extent.

If you have a website and are wondering if your privacy policy is sufficient or if you need one written, contact your Denver business contract attorney today at 720-258-6647.

Terms of Use and Your Website

Last week, your Denver business attorney was lucky enough to get out of dodge and headed up to the gorgeous town of Breckenridge, CO to speak at the Colorado Women’s Small Business Development Conference. While I got out of the heat of Denver, I spoke about a topic that can get a business into a lot of hot water: online marketing. When setting up a business website, business owners worry about issues such as search engine rankings, visibility, and usability. However, many times they forget to think about whether the website is opening them up to liability issues. In today’s blog, I am going to briefly speak about what a terms of use is. Stay tuned next week to learn about privacy policies and the week after to hear a few things about copyright policies!

Terms of Use Policies

A terms of use, sometimes also referred to as a terms of service, is the agreement a user of a website enters into with the website owner. Typically, a terms of use states what the rights and obligations are of both the users of the site, the owners of the site, and browsers of the site. It ensures that everyone knows what they can and can’t do. For some sites the terms of use is fairly short. For instance, a site which is for a small audience and doesn’t allow comments is going to have a much smaller terms of use than a e-commerce social media site where people interact and buy and sell things.

What You Need To Include

A good terms of use will cover the issues that a site owner may encounter with a website user that would result in legal issues. Ninety-nine percent of terms of uses will include a basic description of what the site is going to be used for, whose law controls any disputes (i.e. Colorado or Vermont or Utah), where disputes are heard (i.e. Denver district court, Clay County, Florida, etc), whether the rights of a user can be transferred, and basic contract language (for more on this, attend one of my Contract Basic classes). In addition, depending on the site, terms of use may include clauses that are e-commerce specific (sales, shipping, and return policies); social media specific (account, user interactions, and uploading policies); or profession specific (attorney disclaimers, real estate disclaimers, etc).

Why You Need One

If your business is online, you need a terms of use. It may be something as simple as a few paragraphs if your website is only an online business card or it may become several different documents if you end up running a website as large as Google, Facebook, or MSN. If you don’t have one, especially if you are providing products or services through your website, you may find that you are fighting court battles in places you never expected (and didn’t particularly want to go) when a transaction goes wrong.

If you find yourself in need of a terms of use because you are starting an e-commerce site or have never had a website for your business, please call me, your online business law attorney at 720-258-6647.