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!