Choosing a Business Name FAQs
Business naming is important. You want to find a name that is not currently in use by another business or claimed by someone else as an Internet domain name. To help you get started, read the following answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about how to name your business.
What should I consider when choosing a business name?
If possible, try to choose a name that conveys the general line of business you are in while still remaining original. You want to choose a business name that is distinctive and memorable for several reasons. First, you want to create a business name that it is easily remembered by your customers. Second, you want your business to be distinguishable from your competitors. Finally, choosing a distinctive and memorable name has significant trademark implications.
What kind of legal and practical issues should I consider when naming my business?
- Is your business name available or is someone else using it or something similar?
- Can your business name be trademarked?
- If you plan on having a website to sell your goods or services, is the domain name available?
- If you plan on creating a corporation, company or partnership, have you complied with your state's naming requirements?
How can I determine if the business name I've chosen is available to be used?
Once you've decided on a name, perform a search on the U.S. Patent and Trade Office's (USPTO) database of registered trademarks. Finally, search business name registers, which can be found by entering the phrase "business name register" in any major search engine.
If you do find any names that may be in conflict with your business name, then determine whether you feel that your proposed name will cause any potential confusion. For example, ask yourself:
- Do you offer similar goods and services?
- Would a customer find your business when trying to find the other company?
- Do you sell your goods or services through the same or similar channels of distribution?
- Is the other company's name is well known?
What is a trademark?
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product.
To gain trademark protection, you simply have to use the name. Whoever used the trademark first owns it, and any subsequent users who cause confusion as to the source of products will be forced to stop using the mark and may have to pay damages to the trademark owner. Although you do not have to register the name with the USPTO, it is recommended that you do so to strengthen your claim to a trademark for your business name.
Do I have to register my business name?
If you are running a corporation, limited liability company or other limited partnership, then you will have registered your business name when you filed your articles of incorporation with the state. If you plan on using a fictitious business name, then you will have to register your name separately at the state or local level depending on your state's laws.
Can I just put an Inc. or LLC in my business name?
No, you cannot simply put an Inc., LLC, LLP or other business designated mark at the end of your business name. Those marks indicate a style of ownership structure for your business and aren't actually part of the business name. To use those marks properly, you must follow your state's rules of incorporation and file the necessary articles.
What is the legal name of my business?
The legal name of your business is the official name of the person or entity that owns the business.
- Sole owner of your business: if you are the only owner of your business, then its legal name is your full legal name.
- General partnerships: if your business is a general partnership, then the name is whatever the partnership agreement states it to be or, if it is not specified, the last names of the partners.
- Limited partnerships and corporations: if your business is a limited partnership or corporation, then the name is whatever name you registered your business under with the state for.
What is a fictitious business name?
A fictitious business name usually is accompanied by "doing business as", "DBA", "trade name" or "assumed business name". To legally use a fictitious business name, you must register the name with your state or local office depending on which state you live in.
Get a Free Initial Legal Review
It's not necessary to retain the services of an attorney when choosing a business name in most cases, but there may be times when an attorney can be helpful. For instance, a lawyer can walk you through the registration process or help negotiate with another business entity when there is a naming conflict. Contact a local attorney for a free initial legal review of your needs to learn how they can help you build the business of your dreams and avoid potential nightmares.