/Naming Your Business

How To Choose And Legally Use Your Business Name

The name you choose for your business will be one of your most powerful and valuable assets. As one of the primary ways customers distinguish you from your competitors, your business name wields a lot of power. The right name can help propel you to success; the wrong name can put you at a disadvantage.

Besides choosing a business name that:

  • Projects how you want people to view your business (e.g., edgy, professional, high-tech, academic, approachable, etc.)
  • Makes it easy for customers to identify what you do.
  • Is simple enough to be memorable.

I encourage you to have all your legal i’s dotted and t’s crossed when selecting a name.

How To Choose A Business Name That’s Yours To Use

Start on the right path immediately by making sure another company doesn’t already have dibs on the business name you’d like to use. If someone else has already claimed it, you could end up in legal trouble if you start using it online and printing it on business cards, checks, marketing materials, etc.

How can you know your preferred business name isn’t spoken for already?

Use a business name search tool or contact your state filing office to see if the name you want to use is currently claimed within your state. Also, I encourage you to use a trademark search application tool to see if the name is available in all of the United States. That will allow you to identify if anyone else has registered for, been granted, or abandoned a trademark for your name.

How To Make The Name Officially Yours

So, you say your name is available? Great!

Now it’s time to make it legally yours within the state you’ll operate your business. As I mentioned earlier, your name represents your brand. If another company offering similar products and services were to use the same (or a very similar) name, it could confuse customers and damage your professional reputation.

If you’re a sole proprietor or partnership, filing a DBA (“Doing Business As”)—also known as a fictitious name—to protect your name in the state doesn’t cost a lot of time or money. If you plan to use your own personal first and last name in your business name, you will not need a DBA. For example, Celia Washington wouldn’t have to register “Celia Washington’s Bookkeeping Services ” as a DBA.

By registering your business as a formal legal entity (Limited Liability Company or Corporation) in your state, your business name will automatically become protected in that state. Realize, however, that another business in another state could use your name there. Also, it’s legal for a sole proprietorship or partnership to use your name as a DBA in your state.

If simply registering in your state doesn’t put you at ease about your rights to your business name, I recommend you consider filing for a federal trademark. If the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants your trademark request, it will be illegal for others to use your business name in any of the 50 states.

Don’t Hesitate To Seek Expert Assistance

To avoid lost time and money when choosing a name and taking legal steps to protect it, I encourage you to consult with professionals who can guide and assist you. Consider seeking the input and feedback of branding experts with experience in zeroing in on a business name that will serve your company for the long term. Other helpful resources include attorneys who can advise you in making sound decisions and step you through the legal process of securing and registering your business name. And when you need to prepare the necessary documents to register your business with your state or file for a federal trademark, you might save a heap of time and money by using a reputable online business document filing service.

As you can see, choosing a business name demands more than just slapping words together. You need to devote some thought and time to it. But I assure you, it will be time and energy well spent. Remember, your business name has influence that could make or break your brand.

By | May 22nd, 2017|Naming Your Business|0 Comments

Registering Your Business Name: Three Ways To Get It Done

What’s in a name? More than you might realize when it comes to choosing one for your business!

Aside from the obvious must haves of grabbing customers’ attention and being memorable, a business name must also be available to use—and protected.

Selecting a name for your company is only the first step in the process. You also have to determine that no one else is already using the name by performing a name search.  Then register your business name, so you can legally use it and so other businesses don’t try to claim it as their own.

Imagine if you’re operating under the business name of “Sylvia’s Salon” and someone a few blocks away opens its doors as “Sylvia’s Salon.” That would confuse customers. It could also end up hurting your reputation if someone were to write a bad review of your company when they were actually referring to an experience they had at the other Sylvia’s Salon.

Three Options For Registering Your Business Name

How you register your business name will largely depend on your business’s legal structure.

1. Securing Your Business Name By Forming an LLC, S-Corporation, or C-Corporation

When creating a formal business structure for your company, you take care of your business name registration in the process. And by forming an LLC or registering as an S-Corporation or C-Corporation, you also gain certain liability protection and potential tax benefits.

Submitting articles of incorporation or articles of organization (sometimes called “certificate of organization”) to your state automatically registers your business name within that state. Prior to approving your name, a search is done to ensure it’s not already being used by another business in the state.

2. File A Fictitious Business Name

If you’re a sole proprietor, you can very simply claim and protect your name by registering a fictitious business name with your state or the city/county clerk. This is known as filing a DBA (Doing Business As).

The fee for filing a DBA is typically nominal. So you’re sure no one else has rights to the name, you’ll want to do a name search before filing. Many banks require a DBA before they’ll open a business bank account for an entrepreneur. Depending on the state you’re registering in, you might also be required to publish a notice in a local newspaper and/or a local legal publication to inform the community that you’ve filed your business name.

If you’re using a business name that includes both your first and last name (such as Sylvia Benton’s Salon), you can use the name without filing a DBA. Other names need to be filed as DBAs.

3. Trademark Your Name

Registering your business name as a trademark (or service mark if you sell services) provides the most protection against the threat of others using your name to sell similar products and services. Federal trademark registration will safeguard your name nationally rather than only within your state.

To register for a federal trademark, you must submit an application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office and pay the applicable fee. As with the other options for registering your business name, make sure you do a trademark search before filing to verify your name isn’t already in use.

Your business name is far more than “just a name.” It lays the foundation for your company’s identity and professional reputation. As with any registration or filing that has legal ramifications, you’ll want to cross all your t’s and dot all your i’s when registering your business name.

Not sure of the process or don’t have the time to take care of it on your own? Save yourself the hassle! Contact CorpNet today for a free business consultation and we can help you register your business name!

Image: Adobe Stock

                               

Business Name Registration Or Trademark: Which Is Best?

Key to brand cloud shape

One of the most valuable assets your business will ever have is its name. Your business name is more than what your company is called—it represents your brand’s identity and it’s a way for you to distinguish yourself from your competition. With your business name carrying that much weight, it makes sense to protect it.

As you start your business, consider these two approaches to prevent other companies from using your name and confusing your customers:

Business Name Registration 

If you form an LLC or apply to incorporate a business in a state, your business name is automatically protected in that state after the state has approved your application. No other LLC or corporation will have the right to register their company under that name within the state. Just how different a name must be from another business name varies from one state to the next. For instance, one state may deem it perfectly fine to register “Linda’s Spa and Salon, LLC” when there’s an existing business registered as “Lynda’s Spa and Salon, LLC.” Another state might consider the name “Linda’s Spa and Salon” deceptively similar to the other business’s name.

Note that there are some limitations to state protection. Sole proprietorships and partnerships in that state can still use your name if they so desire; they just wouldn’t be able to form a corporation or LLC using your name. Also, just because you register your business name with the state doesn’t mean a business in another state can’t use the same name. In fact, they could even incorporate or form an LLC using your name, provided they do it in a state or states other than those where you’ve registered your name.

To decide if brand protection at the state level will be enough, I suggest you consider your type of business and business model. If you are opening a local retail store or restaurant, for example, it might not matter to you if another business uses the same name in a different state. How likely would customers be to confuse the two? Probably not at all.

On the other hand, if you have ideas of expanding your business nationally, or are planning to sell your products/services across the country, or have concerns that a partnership or sole proprietorship might use your name, then you might consider protecting your name with a federal trademark.

Federal Trademark Protection

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants trademarks, which identify the source of products or services. A trademark can be a word, phrase, design, or symbol (or a combination of any of them) that distinguishes a company from its competitors. The USPTO can grant trademarks on distinctive names, logos, and slogans. As the owner of a trademark, you have exclusive rights to the mark. No one else may use it at either the state or federal level.

Expect to pay a little more for a trademark than you would for registering your name with the state. The base rate is $325 per class and it will cost more if you hire a professional to prepare the paperwork for you. It may take from six to 12 months for the USPTO to process your request. Although the process is more involved than registering a business name with the state, a trademark provides you with exclusive rights to your name in all 50 states—and trademarks have an unlimited lifespan, provided you comply with renewal requirements.

If you’re thinking about filing for a trademark, I suggest you do some initial homework so you don’t apply for a name that’s already in use. Don’t risk having your application rejected and losing the application fee you submitted.

First step: Conduct a free basic search to see if anyone has a pending application with the USPTO for your proposed trademark or anything similar to it.

Second step: Do a comprehensive name search to see if anyone is using your proposed name at the state or local level.

Isn’t Your Brand Worth Protecting?

Whether your business will have sufficient protection by registering your name with the state or you’ll require exclusive rights in every state, your business name and the brand it represents is worth securing. Consider talking with a legal expert who can help you decide which option is best for your business. And if the paperwork and process of registering your business name or filing for a trademark intimidates you, remember that CorpNet is here to help. Call anytime for a free business consultation at 888.449.2638!

Image: Adobe Stock

The Difference Between Registering a Business Name vs Trademarking a Business Name

705_3562315You spend time coming up with the perfect name for your business…only to find someone else decides to use it right after you open your company. With another business with the same or similar name in town, your customers are getting confused, and you start losing sales. It happens to many entrepreneurs, and it’s completely preventable.

There are two strategies you can use to protect your business name: registering a business name and trademarking a business name. We’ll look at both so you know which is the best fit for your company.

Registering a Business Name: Protect it in Your State

One of the reasons I’m such an advocate for forming an LLC or incorporating is that you automatically get your business name registered with the state where you file your business structure paperwork.

When you apply to be a corporation or an LLC, the Secretary of State will first check to make sure that your proposed business name isn’t already in use by another company in the state, and then your name is protected in the state: no other business will be able to form an LLC or corporation with the same name in that state. Continue reading “The Difference Between Registering a Business Name vs Trademarking a Business Name” »

By | June 29th, 2015|Naming Your Business|2 Comments