What's in a name? Quite a bit, actually, when it comes to naming your business. It's important to choose a name that stands apart from the crowd, is easy to remember and describes your business. But there are some legal and practical considerations as well, such as copyrights and availability of web domains. This section also covers fictitious business names, the process of registering your business name and more. To see other steps to keep in mind, download FindLaw's Guide to Starting a Business [pdf].
Reasons for Registering Your Fictitious Business Names
A fictitious name (or assumed name, trade name or DBA name) is a business name that is different from your personal name, the names of your partners or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation. Not all states require the registering of fictitious business names or DBAs. The main incentive is that, by registering the fictitious name, the owner of the business gains legal recognition of that assumed name. Consequently, the owner of the business can do things like opening a bank account under the assumed name and enforce contracts that were signed under the fictitious name.
What is a Business Trade Name?
A trade name is any name used in the course of business that doesn't include the full legal name of all the owners of the business. In the case of a limited partnership, corporation, or LLC, it’s any name that differs in any respect from the name registered with the Secretary of State. The purpose of trade name registration is to provide a record of all owners of a business. You must register your trade name in order to file a lawsuit on behalf of your business.
Business Name Don'ts: Living People and Deceased Presidents
Don't use names identifying a particular living individual other than yourself, the name of a deceased president with a living widow, names that merely describe your business or that mischaracterize your business, primarily geographic descriptions, or names that are primarily your last name if you are considering registering your business name.
Franchise Development and Financing
Starting a franchise company is not an easy or inexpensive process. There are a number of requirements you will have to meet and a few other things that, though not legally required, are also essential. For starters, you will be required to prepare a standard disclosure document for your franchise operation. This document, called the Uniform Franchise Offering Circular (UFOC) is required of all companies, by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), if they want to offer franchises for sale anywhere in the U.S.
Protecting Trademarks: Do I Need to Register?
To be protected, a trademark needs to be distinctive. Trademarks do not need to be registered to gain protection, they simply need to be used. Although registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is not required, it is advisable because it greatly strengthens your claim to a trademark if a dispute arises down the road.
Hiring a Business Attorney
A business lawyers can help you navigate the complicated legal landscape — from the type of structure to choose (DBAs, LLCs, LLPs, C- and S-corps) to how to bring new people on board and how to let them go.A skilled lawyer can prepare operating agreements and shareholder agreements and can help you collect revenues and reduce not just liability, but also loss. Finally, if you need to choose a business name, a lawyer can help you navigate the law.