How to Register your Business Name

How to Register your Business Name

Victoria Pappas
 | 

Starting a business is an exciting process and naming your business is an important part of that process. In order to start your business, you of course need to name it. 

 

Once you have decided on a name and made sure it's available, it is important to register that name, so no one else can take the name and so you can establish a legitimate business. 

 

It is important to note that registering your business name is not the same thing as registering your business. Registering your business means sending an application with the details of your business and the articles of incorporation. Sometimes when you go through this process, you will register the name or the state will do it for you. Double check with your state procedures on how a business name is registered.

 

Here is what you need to know about registering your business name. 

 

First, pick the name and check its availability. 

 

It is important to pick a unique name that you like because the name will be on everything such as business cards, advertisements, websites, business formation documents (such as the articles of incorporation), business loans, contracts, and other important elements relating to your business. 

 

If you conduct business using your own legal name, registering a name is not necessarily required. But registering your business name comes with certain benefits (tax, legal)  you might want to take advantage of.

 

Next, you will need to make sure that no one else is using the same name or one that is too similar. For one, people might get confused between the two businesses if they have the same or similar names. Also, you will not be allowed to register your business name or do business under the name if someone else in the state is using the same name or one that is too similar. 

 

This means you’ll have to research business names in the state you want to do business in. Your state will have a database with all of the business names registered in the state. Usually, you can access this database online. 

 

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) also has a registry of all the trademarked names in the United States. If a business name is trademarked, that means you are not legally allowed to use it or name too similar to it and can face legal consequences if you do. Click here to access the USPTO trademark database.

 

Register the name

 

Once you have come up with a name and checked its availability, the next step is to actually register it. 

 

Usually, registering your business name involves registering the name in the state your business will be in. The process can be as simple as filling out a form online, but does vary depending on the state, so make sure to check out the specific requirements of your state. 

 

In a lot of states, if your business is an LLC, corporation, or partnership you will typically register the name of the business at the same time you create the business. But again, every state does things differently so check in with the entity that handles business registration (usually the Secretary of State).

 

 According to the U.S. Small Business Administration outlines 4 different ways to protect and register your business name: 

 
1. Entity name protects you at state level
 

This is how the state identifies and recognizes your business. Again states have certain requirements for the names. 

 

For example if your business is an LLC, the state might require you to have the phrase Limited Liability Company, LLC, or some version thereof in the business name. 

 

Some states require the name reflect the type of business you are operating. 

 

Registering with the state will in most cases protect your business name so that no one else in the state can operate a business under the same name. Some exceptions to this may apply. 


2. Trademark protects you at a federal level

    

Trademarks protect the name of your business, goods, and or services at the national level. So if you trademarked your name, this means that other businesses in the same or similar industries in the United States may not use your business name. 

 

If someone is using your trademarked business name, you can file for a trademark infringement lawsuit. Beware, if you are using someone else's trademark, they can bring this suit against you and it can become very costly and time consuming. 

 
3. Doing Business As (DBA) doesn’t give legal protection, but might be legally required

    

This is also known as a fictitious name, trade name, or assumed name. DBA’s allow you to conduct business matters under a name that is different from your own name or your business’ name. If you use a DBA, states typically require that you register it. 

 

If you use a DBA and get a federal tax ID number (EIN), you can open up a business bank account.

 

Trademark infringement still applies to DBA’s, so it is a good idea to check the USPTO database. 

 

Having a DBA can be helpful because states allow multiple businesses to use the same DBA.

 

4. Domain name protects your business website address

 

If you want to create a website or online platform for your business, it is a good idea to register a domain name, so another business won’t use your name for their website. Once you register your domain name and continue to own it, no one else can use it. 

 

A domain name is your website address or URL. It might be likely that someone already owns the domain name you want to use. In that case, you can make your URL something similar or related to the business. 

 

People have to renew domains often, so the URL you want might become available later if you keep checking. But that also means you have to keep up with your own domain name to make sure that you will still own it and no one else can take it. 

 

You will register your domain name through a registrar service. Be careful not to fall for a scam or unreliable registrar service. The U.S. Small Business Administration links this list of accredited registrars so you can find a safe one to use.

 

Unless you are filing for a trademark on your business name, the process is mainly conducted at the state and local level. Usually, when creating your business, states will require you to register and search your name for availability at the same time. But sometimes, you may have to do it separately. Therefore, it is important to check the rules of the state you want to do business in. 

 

If you are unsure about the availability of your name, any step in the process of registering your business name, or concerned about trademark infringements, it is always a good idea to consult a lawyer. 

 

This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.

 
Victoria Pappas

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