An intro to registering a business name
Registering your business name means your state or local government puts it on a registry so no one else can use it. It can also make it easier for customers to find your business. Depending on the type of business structure, you may be able to add your business name to your application to register your business. In other cases, you need to register it separately.
There are four different ways to register your business name:
- Registering a legal entity name
- Trademarking your business name
- Filing for a DBA
- Registering a domain name
Registering an entity name
Your entity name is how the state identifies your business. It is generally registered together with the establishment of a separate legal entity at the state level. If you’re planning to start a limited partnership, LLC or a corporation, your business entity name will be automatically registered when you file your statement of limited partnership, articles of organization or articles of incorporation with your state filing office. This prevents other limited partnerships, LLCs or corporations in your state to use the same name.
Trademarking your business name
A trademark is a word, phrase, design or symbol that identifies and distinguishes the source of your products from the products of other companies. For instance, if you were a beverage company and wanted to call your business "Joe’s Beverage" and one of your products "Joe’s Brew," registering those names as a trademark in your state can help prevent other beverage businesses or similar products in the same state from using those same names.
If you want to market your product or service across the country or international borders, you have to apply for federal trademark protection as well. Registering your business name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) notifies the entire country that the name is already taken, and it makes it easier to defend your business name against infringers.
Filing for a DBA
You can apply for a "Doing Business As" (DBA) if you decide to go into business under a different name than your own legal name. Also referred to as a "trade name," "fictitious business name" or "assumed name," DBA gives you more freedom over what you call your business. For example, if your name is Hannah McCarthy and you decide to do business as “Hannah McCarthy,” there’s usually no need to register a DBA. However, if you plan to do business as "Hannah’s Professional Services," then you would have to register a DBA.
To register a DBA, you have to first determine the requirements based on your specific location. Requirements vary depending on your business structure, state, municipality and county, so make sure to check with your local government office and website.
Registering a domain name
If you want your business to have an online presence, you should register a domain name. Domain name registration is the act of reserving a name online for a certain period, typically one year. A good domain name for a business usually includes the name, like veganbytes.com. Once you register your domain name, no one else can copy or use it as long as you renew it on a regular basis.
Domain names are registered by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers-approved registrars. Because the registration process is centralized, domain names are different from both trademarks and business names because the legal owner of the domain name can usually prevent someone else from using it without filing a lawsuit. However, anyone can buy the same domain name with a different top-level domain. For instance, if you own the domain name myrtlesturtles.com, other people or companies can generally buy myrtlesturtles.org or myrtlesturtles.net.
Related: How to Grow Your Business
Examples of business name registration
Here are some examples of business name registrations:
- Tiger’s Classic Cars, LLC. (Limited Liability Company)
- John’s Vintage Resale (DBA)
- EQUF Appliances, Inc. (Corporation)
- Smith Investments, LLC. (Limited Liability Company)
- MeBags® (Trademark)
- Yacks & Lane™ (Trademark)
Business name FAQs
The following are some of the frequently asked questions about registering a business name:
What issues should I keep in mind when choosing a name for my business?
As you search for the perfect name for your business, keep these questions in mind:
- Is the business name you want available?
- Will your proposed business name get trademark protection?
- If you make a website for your business, is a similar domain name available?
- If you plan to start a limited partnership, LLC or corporation, have you complied with a few state rules for naming your business?
How do I find out if the business name I have chosen is available to be used?
There are many different ways to find out if a business name you plan to use is available. Here are some of them:
- Conduct a quick screening search using a search engine.
- Go to your county’s clerk’s office and check whether your proposed business name is already on the list of assumed or fictitious business names in your county.
- Use the USPTO’s free trademark database.
- Contact your state filing office.
What is the legal name of my business?
The legal name of your business is the legal name of the entity or person that owns it. If you’re the sole owner of your business, its legal name is your full legal name. If your business is organized as a general partnership, its legal name is the name indicated in your partnership agreement. If your business is registered as a corporation, LLC or limited partnership, its legal name is the name registered with your state filing office.