You have chosen a great name for your business. Congratulations! Finding a name for your business is an important first step if you want to start your own company. Now it’s time to take the next step, which is to register company name to make sure you can use it and protect it.
Why does the name of your business matter so much?
Everything will have your business name on it:
- Business cards, paper, and forms for the office
- Every piece of advertising and marketing
- Your business formation papers, such as an LLC’s Articles of Organization or a corporation’s Articles of Incorporation.
- All business loan documents
- Maybe the name of your business website’s domain
- All agreements and deals
A business name is registered with the city where the business is set up. If the company does business under a different name, it must file a “doing business as” statement.
When to Register Your Business Name?
Business name registration means that you send your business name to your city so that it can be put on their list of business names.
There are two times when you should register the name of your business:
- If you want to start a business but aren’t sure what kind of legal structure you want yet, but you already have a business name, register it. You can always change your mind later, but your name will be saved during the registration process so that no one else can use it while you finish setting up your business.
- If you’re starting a sole proprietorship, you should register your business name with the city. There’s no other way to register a sole proprietorship.
What Does NOT Include Business Name Registration
Getting a business name registered with a city is different from getting an LLC, partnership, or corporation registered with a city. To register a business, you have to send in a form with information about it. For example, Articles of Incorporation are used to register a corporation with a city.
You don’t need to file a separate business name registration application if you want to register your LLC, partnership, or corporation with your city. Most countries will automatically register the name as part of the incorporation process. You must check your name against the city business name registry to make sure it doesn’t already exist.
Other Business Name Registrations
1. Getting your county or city to register a business name
Filing a fictitious name statement, which is sometimes called a D/B/A, is not the same as registering a business name. People will know who owns your business if you file a DBA with your town. It’s needed when the business name isn’t the same as the owner’s name. For example, Sam Weeks needs a DBA if he wants to run his business as “Happy Hot Dogs.”
If your business name is different from the name you use for advertising and publicity purposes (your business trade name), you will need to file a “fictitious name” statement, also called a “d/b/a” or “doing business as” statement. This statement is filed in the county where your business is located. One of the first things you should do if you want to use a trading name that is different from your registered name is to file a d/b/a or fictitious name statement.
2. Putting your business name on the market
Neither registering a business name nor trademarking it is the same thing. You don’t have to register a trademark unless you want to make sure that no one else is using your name. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is where you register a trademark in the U.S.
What If I Don’t Register My Business Name?
Here’s what can happen if your business name isn’t registered. Let’s say you want to call your business Captain Mark’s Seafood, but there is already a Captain Mack’s Seafood in your city.
Customers, vendors, and the public can get confused by names that sound alike. For instance, if Captain Mack’s gets sued, people might think it’s your business.
Captain Mack could sue your business for trademark infringement if he has registered his business name as a trademark.