3 Ways to Register a Business Name

3 Ways to Register a Business Name

by Brette Sember, J.D., May 2019

Choosing a name for your business is a crucial step. You want to make sure it is understandable and conveys what you do, while also being catchy enough for people to remember. It can take time to find just the right name.

Once you decide on a name, you need to register it so that your company's identity is protected.

Why Register Your Business Name?

When you register a business name, you not only comply with laws that require you to take this step, but you also protect yourself.

Once you register a name, no one else can use it, so you protect your company against someone else doing business under the same name.

There are three options for business name registration.

1. Use a Doing Business As (DBA)

The easiest way to register a business is to file a DBA, also sometimes called registering a fictitious business name, with your state or county clerk's office. First, you will need to do a search to be sure there is no other business using the same name. There is a small fee for filing and you may also be required to publish a notice in a newspaper of the name. Filing a DBA is the most common method used by sole proprietors.

If you are using your own legal name for your business (“Jane Doe"), registering a business name is not required.

Any other name must be registered so that people can determine who owns the business. Additionally, if you want to open a bank account in your business's name, the bank will require this filing.

2. Create a Business Structure

When you are considering how to register a business name, creating a formal business structure is the most common path. Creating an LLC or corporation not only allows you to set up a business structure that can offer many protections and benefits, but you also will register the business name in doing so.

Filing your articles of incorporation or articles of organization registers the name with the state. A search is done to ensure the name is not already in use by another. If your company intends to sell products or services using a different name, that name will need to be registered as a fictitious name with your state as well.

3. Register a Trademark

Another option is to trademark your business name. When you register a trademark with your state, you receive additional protections should another company attempt to use your company's name within your state. Federal trademark registration provides protection in every state.

To trademark a name with the federal government, you must file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. There is a fee, so you will want to be sure no one else has trademarked a similar name or your application will be rejected. When you trademark a business name, you have the strongest protection available against infringers.

Registering your business name is an important step and one that offers a variety of protections. Taking this step formalizes your business and helps ensure no one else can use your name.