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.