How to Name and Register Your Small Business

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You might be wondering what is in a business name. A lot, if you want to do it right. And for your business, you certainly would want to come up with the best. Read from our guide what composes a business name and how to name and properly register it.

Two of the steps you have to go through when setting up a business is to choose and register a business name.

If you plan to register your business as a corporation, a limited liability company or a limited partnership, you would have to do it with the state. But if you plan to form a sole proprietorship or a general partnership, registration is usually done with the county or city only.

What’s in a Business Name?

Generally, a business name is made up of three parts: the distinctive name, the descriptive name and the legal ending. The distinctive name is the unique part of the business name. This is subject to your fantasy and could be familiar or completely new. The descriptive element is the identifying part or the portion that describes what product or services your company offers. In some jurisdictions this is mandatory, in others, not. The legal ending is the part that identifies the business structure of the company. In the U.S., it could be Corporation, Inc. or Ltd. This informs the public what to legally expect from the company. A Corp. or an LLC ending means the business is incorporated. Incorporation gives the owners limited liability towards the business. In case of a legal wrangle, for example, suppliers and creditors can only get after the assets of the business and not that of its owners.

Pre-registration Process

While you are free to choose whatever name you want for the business, there are certainly good and bad ways of doing it. For marketing purposes, the business name should be catchy. But it should also be free of negative connotations while being easy to understand and spell. There’s no use in having a unique business name when no one can remember it or spell it correctly. This tip is also helpful if you are planning to get a Web site for the business.

A business name should also be made in such a way that it doesn’t attract potential patent infringement lawsuits. Infringement of a trademark or a brand name doesn’t necessarily mean copying another’s distinctive mark in its entirety. A play on the name of another existing business that is vigilant and big enough to bring infringers to court could start a suit. No business owner would want that extra cost. It is therefore important for you to do a research whether your chosen name is available or can be used legally. You can search in the Internet, in the state office, directories, and trademark databases like the Trademark Electronic Search System of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

In naming a business, you must also review the part about naming businesses in the rules of incorporation of your state. There might be some restrictions that you should be aware of – for example, regarding the use of ‘bank’ or ‘company’.

Registering a Business Name

If you are applying for a corporate or an LLC structure for your business, you would have to supply a name for it when you submit your articles of incorporation. If you are registering a partnership, the company either takes the name provided in your partnership agreement or your and your partner’s last names. If you plan to operate under a sole proprietorship, your name becomes the business name by default unless you apply for a fictitious name or a “doing business as (dba)” name with the office of the city or county clerk. To see a guide on dba naming, visit Business.gov.

After you have registered a business name, you might consider adding a layer of legal protection over it. You may register a trade name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and put an R mark on your symbol. Or you can opt not to and simply put the TM symbol to indicate that you are using your business name as a trademark. For legal guide on trademark protection, you can visit AllLaw.com or the Trademark Center.

BusinessNameUSA.com helps companies process government applications and also helps inf finding professional fees by state.

5 Comments

  • 1. sajithkumar said on 2/2/2012 12:10:59 PM
    One of my relative would like to start an electrical trading shop dealing with wiring and HT accessories in Kozhikode dt,kerala.It is proposed to start as a small shop .My contacts with electrical contractors ,builders etc can be used to mobilise the business.I am presently working with power utility,kerala.
  • 2. Manglesh Sharma said on 2/3/2012 9:03:52 AM
    Hi, My name is Manglesh Sharma and I want to start a Housekeeping service provider firm in Noida Uttar pradesh (India) Can you Please suggest what all documents are required for this firm also confirm from where I have to submit the documents for registration. I will be Thankful to You. Regards, Manglesh Sharma
  • 3. Manan Gul said on 5/20/2012 12:57:00 AM
    Hello, I want to open a logistics supply chain business in warsaw polland, kindly tell me the documents required and how much capital is required for initiating a business. how much time will the whole process take? Regards, Manan Gul
  • 4. sibga said on 6/3/2012 4:34:16 AM
    I stay in kuwait (jahra) i start a small business. I need your advice.
  • 5. Priya Rastogi said on 6/19/2013 5:07:06 AM
    hi.. i want to open a mustard oil mill.. please tell me how to register a mill.. what documents are required..
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