Corporate names are the legal names of businesses. There are things to consider when choosing a corporate name for your business, the biggest one being ensuring you are not choosing a name that is already in use. Not only may it create confusion among customers, but it could also qualify as copyright or trademark infringement. Additionally, you will want to make sure that the name you choose for your business is in accordance with any regulations or guidelines that exist within the state that you are doing business.

What Needs to Be Included

If only choosing a name for your burgeoning business empire was as simple as just picking something that you like. You have probably spent countless hours, days, weeks, even months, brainstorming potential names, trying to land on the best one. While that is certainly a big part of choosing the perfect name for your new business, there is more to it than just that. Here are some other things to consider when choosing your corporate name:

  1. Has this name already been taken? Or, is there another company with a similar name that could create confusion or issues of copyright infringement? This is something that you will be able to determine by contacting the Secretary of State in the state in which you are going to be incorporated.
  2. Trademarking your company name and any logos or other intellectual property therein. After all, just as you do not want to end up being the plaintiff in a copyright infringement case, you certainly do not want to be the defendant, either.

Fortunately, many states provide online databases or search engines which you can utilize to determine if a company name has already been taken, so you do not spend too much getting married to a particular name, only to discover it's not available to you.

Doing Business As

You have probably seen businesses utilizing a DBA, or, “doing business as.”

There are several reasons as to why a business may choose to implement a DBA; sometimes a company may register a business name and be underway using that name, only to then find out that the name they chose is not actually what is best. Perhaps the name is somehow confusing to customers, or maybe it does not adequately indicate the products or services provided by the business. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, adding a DBA is generally a much easier and less time-consuming process than attempting to completely change the business name.

Again, you will need to ensure that the DBA you are looking to use has not already been taken by another business, but much like with choosing your company’s legal name, it can be easily accomplished with an online search, in most cases.

Protecting Your Name

After much back and forth, brainstorming and bouncing ideas off friends and family, you have landed on the perfect name for your business. Even better, you have done some online searches, and it does not appear that your perfect name has already been taken by another business. So, now what?

  1. First things first: register your business name with the state. Don’t give another business owner the opportunity to swoop in and take your perfect name!
  2. For a small fee and some minimal paperwork, it is generally quite easy to register your corporate name with the Secretary of State where your business will be incorporated.
  3. Make sure you have done your due diligence regarding the availability of your business name; again, the Secretary of State will not permit two businesses with the same name, even if they are providing vastly different products or services.
  4. By registering with the Secretary of State, not only are you taking the proper legal action and engaging in best practices, but it will also provide legitimacy to your business. This can be important, should you decide to pursue business loans, grants or investors.
  5. Registering with the Secretary of State in your home state (or, the state in which your business is to be incorporated) only protects you in that state. If you are hoping for company growth that will allow you to expand into other states, you will want to also register with the federal government. (This can serve as another reason as to why a business may end up using a DBA; the company grows and the legal name is already registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office)

If you need help with corporate names, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law, and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.