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The Ins and Outs of Choosing a Business Name for Your Company

How do you go about choosing a business name for your new company? Although there are books dedicated to the process, nobody has really "written the book" on naming a business. That's because there's no set formula for deciding the perfect name. But, there are general parameters that most people follow to arrive at their name choice; and, once you've chosen a name, there are state and federal requirements to be met to register the name of your enterprise. When thinking about a business name, you should try to pick one that:
  • Is related to the work, products or services you'll offer.
  • Is short, concise.
  • Is easy for people to remember - simple to spell, pronounce and repeat.
  • Distinguishes your business from the competition.
  • Communicates your message.
  • Sounds pleasant when said aloud or heard in advertising.
  • Says something that you really can deliver.
  • How Do I Go About Choosing A Business Name that Does All That?

    There are lots of ways to arrive at a great name choice. You can Google some choices on the Internet or surf the Web for ideas. Talk to friends and colleagues. Enlist loved ones for an impromptu brainstorming session. Try names out on people and gauge their response - and make sure you don't just use folks you know. Perfect strangers may give you a more unbiased response. And, if you have the money, you can always enlist an ad agency or design firm to help you name your business and create your corporate identity.

    Searching to Ensure that Your Choice Isn't Already Taken

    As you're working through lists and focusing your choices, it's important to keep in mind that your proposed business name may already be taken by another company, so it's good to have several names from which to choose. And it's a must to do a name search to make sure the name you want isn't already taken. Start by going online and checking the name on several of the larger search engines, like Yahoo and Google. In seconds you'll know whether some other organization on the web is using your choice or a similar name to sell similar services or products. When you do choose a name, it pays to do a formal name search by going to the federal trademark database to see if the name you want to use has been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) by someone else. Just visit the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Business Center at, choose "Search" and follow the instructions that come up on the screen.

    But the search shouldn't end there. It's also recommended that you check your own state's trademark database, which usually "lives" in the Secretary of State's office (some states do dedicate a separate department for their database). And then, you should check your county clerk's office for similar names as well.

    Why do all this searching? Because the last thing you want is to have someone sue you for trademark infringement, especially once you have started your business and you have established your business name as your corporate identity.

    Registering Your Business Name

    Do you have to register your business name? Lots of people don't, but it's important to seriously consider the above possibilities and think about whether it makes sense for you register your business name with the state or get your business name trademarked with the USPTO. If you're going to use your business name in marketing campaigns to identify your product or service, you'll be using it as a trademark, and should take advantage of the protection that trademark law affords you - that is, preventing another company from using a logo or name that can easily be confused with yours.

    And, if you're going to build a web site for your business, is a domain name that's close to your business name available? In today's business world, considering the Web applications for your business name is a necessity. The web is a powerful tool that you can make work for your business name or against you. It's where people go to search for services and products. If your business isn't there, you may be out of the game. And, you can gain at least limited trademark protection for your business' domain name if you register with the USPTO.

    One more consideration: If you choose a corporation, limited partnership or LLC as your business form, you must check with the state in which you're incorporating to make sure your business name doesn't match or isn't close to that of an existing corporation, LLC, or limited partnership in your state. If it is, you've got to move on to another name on your list.

    In certain cases (starting a corporation, limited partnership or LLC), your official business name gets registered automatically by your state filing office when you turn in your formal business papers - articles of incorporation, etc. If you're going to sell products or services under another name, you will be required to file a fictitious, or assumed name statement in the state or county where you headquarter your enterprise. In general, any entity that doesn't include its legal name as a part of its business name has to file the same statement, usually with the county clerk's office.

    If you are going to use a name other than your own for your business, contact the county recorder of deeds' office (or government equivalent) that your business will be operating in to get specific information and any necessary forms. Generally (and depending on what state you're doing business in), you'll be required to notarize, file (register) and publish a fictitious business name statement. All states have their own regulations and rules for registering your business name. You can check with the Small Business Administration (SBA) online at for a link to your state's web site, or call the SBA answer desk at 800.827.5722 and ask for assistance.

    After you've finished choosing your business name, and registering with the proper authorities, make sure you keep that registration and/or trademark current. They don't last forever, and you'll have to re-up periodically - every five to ten years.

    Want more information about registering a company? Visit our Guide. Check out incorporation fees by each state.

    Tip: Did you know that Delaware and Nevada are top two incorporation states?

    Ready to register a company? Choose one of these great online incorporators:

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