Choosing the Company Name
The very first thing to do before starting a limited liability company is to thoroughly research the name you wish to use in order to be sure it is available. Some businesses have been forced to stop using their name after spending thousands of dollars promoting it.
Fictitious business names are names registered by businesses that are not the name of the company itself. If someone else has a fictitious name that is the same as the business name you want to use, you might want to consider another name.
When forming a new company, you may not need a fictitious name. Your company's name may be your business name. Some examples of when a fictitious name may be needed include:
- If a person who names his or her company something like John Smith, LLC, he or she might want to use the fictitious name, Smith Family Realty.
- If the company has a common name like Jones Flooring, LLC, it might want to add a location and use a fictitious name such as Jones Flooring of Miami, Jones Flooring of Key West, etc.
If someone has a state-issued trademark on a name, you will not be able to use it. Therefore, you need to check the state's trademark records as well.
While there may be a lot of businesses around the country using names similar to what you want to use that will not cause you problems, if they have registered a federal trademark of the name, they can force you to stop using it and you could be liable for damages. So it is best to check the trademarks registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Trademark search. You can conduct your own search online at the USPTO website (www.uspto.gov). This type of search will pull up both active and pending federal trademarks that are similar to your mark. Because you are not just looking for a “direct hit” or exact match, but are also looking for marks that are similar, you might consider getting advice from an expert to guide you.
Even if a business does not register its name, it still has legal rights to it. Therefore, you should check to see if any other businesses have the name you intend to use. If a business in your area has a similar name, you should not use it. If the business is farther away, you can use it if you do not expect to do business in that area; but still, a completely different name is better.
Sometimes it seems like every good name is taken. But a name can often be modified slightly or used on a different type of goods or services. If your favorite name is taken, try different variations. However, keep in mind that if you eventually expand your business to an area where the name is used, you can be barred from using a name if someone else has already established it there. In such a case, you would have been better off starting a business with a completely different name.
Generally, the limited liability company name must contain one of the following at the end of the name:
- limited liability company
In some states, the word, “limited” can be abbreviated “Ltd.” and the word “company” can be abbreviated to “Co.”
The name cannot include any words implying that it is part of the state or federal government, or that it is a part of any business in which it is not authorized to be.
Generally, a professional LLC must use certain words, such as professional limited liability company or the abbreviation P.L.L.C. as part of its company name.