Naming a business is arguably the hardest part of creating a business. Making the actual name legal is quite a simple process,known as registering it, and there are three main ways to do it, as we have listed.
Why register your name?
Registering a business name means complying with laws that require you to do so, so it’s vital that you do it. But there are other reasons for doing so too: you protect yourself – no one else can use the name, which could potentially harm your business.
After you have decided upon a name, you firstly want to make sure that it’s available in your state, and also that it meets all the requirements for your chosen business structure. You also need to decide whether your legal business name will be your brand name, or if your brand name will be different to your legal name. This tells you if you need a DBA or not. To check your name is available do a business name search in your state, and also check your name idea is unique by doing a US Federal Trademark Search, making sure that it’s not already taken by another brand online.
When creating a business structure
This is the most common path to take when making your business name legal, since most names are created when the business is being formed. Creating an LLC or a Corporation will let you register your business name.
All you have to do in this process is file your articles of organisation or articles of incorporation. There’s a place to list your name when you’re filing, and you just have to write it down, after having checked it’s available, and send it off. If you also want to have a brand name as well as a legal name, you’ll need to list this as well.
Use a DBA (doing business as)
This is a popular choice for business owners who have a legal name but want to operate as something else in front of the public. The easiest way to register a business is to file a DBA with your state or county clerk’s office. After you’ve checked to see if your name is already in use or not, you’ll need to file for a DBA. There is a small fee for filing this, and in some states you’re also required to publish a notice in a newspaper about the name. This method is hugely popular for sole proprietors, as they have to have their full name as part of their legal name, and this gives the opportunity to create a catchier name. If you are using your own legal name for your business, you do not need to register it. But any other name needs to be registered so people know who owns the business. You’ll also need to file for a DBA if you want to open a bank account in your business’ name, to differentiate from your personal accounts.
Registering a trademark
Another option for making your business name legal is trademarking your business name. Registering a trademark is great. You receive additional protections, should another company try and use your company’s name within the state. If you get federal trademark protection, that provides protection in every single state.
In order to trademark a name with the federal government you need to file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This does cost, so it’s a good idea to make sure that a similar name hasn’t been trademarked before, or your application will be rejected and your money wasted. Trademarking means you’re highly protected against any infringement.
This step is normally taken by business owners who are formalising their business, making it more official and exclusive to them.
TRUiC has lots of advice on how to pick a name and even offers a business name generator if you’re lost. Read more on their site.