How to Name Your Business
Coming up with a business name may be harder than you think. First, think of ideas for your name that are descriptive of the business, standout and grabs customers' attention, and are easily remembered. You should come up with several ideas because most business names are registered trade or service marks, granting the business the exclusive use of that name in a certain geographic area or for a certain type of business. Your local or state government may also have laws dictating how certain types of businesses must be named.
Step 1 - Is it Legal?
The first and easiest step is to make sure you are allowed to call yourself what you want to call yourself. If a license or other credential is required to engage in the occupation do you have that license? A quick way to get into legal trouble is to mislead customers into thinking that you have a credential that you do not actually have.
Step 2 - What Type of Company?
Next, what will your business structure be; will you be a sole proprietorship, a partnership a corporation? How you decide to organize your business may affect what you can call yourself. In some states a sole proprietorship is required to do business under the owner's name. Most states allow an exception if a "doing business as" or "fictitious business name" registration is filed. A fictitious name is any assumed name or designation other than the legal name of the business, so if you want to call your business something other than your real name you should file for a fictitious name.
Partnerships usually must include the partners' names in the business name, corporations usually are required to include "Inc." and limited liability companies must include LLC or Limited Liability Company in the business name. The legal reason for this requirement is to inform your customers as to whom they are doing business with. If a business that has limited liability does not advertise that fact to their customers the owners may lose their limited liability protection and be held personally liable if they are sued.
Step 3 - Register your Mark
A business does not have to register its name to operate under the name but a registered name does provide more legal protections in case you do have to sue a similarly named business. In your state either your state Secretary of State or Lieutenant Governor is responsible for registering business names. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is responsible for the registration of all trade and service marks and provides a free search of currently registered marks.
Step 4 - Get on the Web
Once you decide on your legal and business name you need to get a website, called a domain name. Even if you do not plan on doing business on the internet a web page is now an essential business tool. When you look up a business on the internet and cannot find their web page do you inherently think twice about doing business with them?
Business owners of course would like to register the same web page name as their business name, but that is not always possible. While every page on the internet must be uniquely named not every business in the world has a unique name. You may need to get creative by adding additional characters or words to your business name to create a suitable internet home.
Internet domains are sold by Domain Name Registrars, such as Go Daddy, Network Solutions and Register.com. Different domain categories such as .com, .edu, .net, .org etc ... may be sold by different registrars. You can also search for available web site names at each of the Registrars' web sites.
Hopefully this How-To has helped explain the legal steps to create a business name. Remember, create a name that is available, legal and fits your business structure.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.
Additional Business Law Articles
- An Overview of the Uniform Commercial Code
- What is Redemption?
- What steps should I take to start a business?
- What are the advantages of forming a Corporation?
- How to Form a Limited Liability Company
- Secured Transactions: Which Party is Secure?
- What is the Retail Installment Sales Financing Act?
- Do I need to develop terms and conditions for my business website?
- A Breach of Fiduciary Duty
- What are Negotiable Instruments?
- How Can a Creditor Repossess Property?
- Defenses to Repossession
- What is equity financing?
- Due Diligence in Business Financing
- How to Avoid Big Mistakes in your New Business
- Confidentiality and Nondisclosure Agreements
- What Should Be Included in an Employee Handbook?
- What steps are required to form a corporation?
- How to Deal with Employee Complaints
- What steps are required to form an LLC?
- How can I collect money that is owed to me by my customers?
- Hiring Foreign Workers
- I want to do business online. Do I need to charge state sales tax?
- Severance Packages
- Letters of Intent and Term Sheets
- What is debt financing?
- Shareholder Agreements
- Does a contract have to be in writing in order to be enforceable?
- Buy Sell Agreements
- An Ounce of Prevention - How Businesses Can Minimize the Threat of Litigation
- How to Deal with Common Disputes of Family Owned Businesses
- What is Your Business Worth?
- Do I need a license / permit to open my business?
- Business Slowdowns, Downsizing and Cost Reductions
- Wrongful Termination of Employment
- What benefits must I legally provide to my employees?
- Due Diligence in Business Mergers and Acquisitions
- Being Squeezed out of a Family Owned Business?
- How Can a Business Law Attorney Help You Dissolve Your Business?
- Do I Need a Taxpayer Identification Number for my Business?
- The Importance of Business Law Attorneys
- What are the advantages of organizing a business as a Sole Proprietorship?
- What is a C Corporation?
- What is limited liabilty?
- What is an S Corporation?
- How often do I need to pay taxes?
- What are the advantages of a limited liability company (LLC)?
- Do I need business insurance?
- What are the advantages of a limited liability partnership (LLP)?
- Using Incentive Stock Option Agreements to Attract and Retain Key Employees
- The Sarbanes Oxley Act: Success or Failure?
- Common Small Business Tax Deductions
- The Board of Directors Duties of Care and Loyalty
- Common Contract Terms Explained
- Advertising Your Business on the Internet
- Are There Any Limits on Executive Compensation?
- What Happens When a Contract is Broken?
- Employer Identification Numbers
- Zone of Insolvency - How to Conduct Business When Bankruptcy is a Looming Possibility
- How to Finance a New Business
- Corporations and the Law
- Overview of Business Law
- Business Finance Laws