Doing business in Michigan doesn't have to be difficult, and after selecting the structure you wish to operate under, you are ready to register a business name. The first thing you should do is make sure the name you have chosen is available.

The MI Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs and the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office TESS System makes this process fairly easy by providing you with an avenue to do a business entity name search. The search can help confirm name availability and provide you with information to protect you from trademark conflicts. Download the Certificate of Assumed Name form after you have confirmed name availability.

Who Has to File for an Assumed Name Certificate?

Unless you are a sole proprietorship and operating under your legal name, Michigan requires you to file an assumed name certificate. This is done by completing a Doing Business As, DBA, form and the instructions can be found on the Certificate of Assumed Name form.

For assistance, you can contact the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, LARA, for assistance or reaching out for the help of a professional filing service is an option, and can save you a mass amount of paperwork.

Once the DBA form is complete, you will need to submit the form either in person or by mailing the form to the address provided on the DBA form. Your filing fee will be based on the type of business entity you have chosen to operate under and should be included with the DBA form. To expedite the process you can include an additional fee.

Do Business Owners Have to Register a Secondary Name?

In the instance that a business is already operating under its original name and the owners wish to operate under a different name, then the business must register the secondary name. The actual name of the owner or partners will be used for sole proprietorships and partnerships. The secondary name acts as an additional legal name but does not replace the original name of the business.

For instance, if John Smith is a sole proprietor and wants to do business under a name other than his legal name, such as Best Carpet Cleaner, then John will be required to file a DBA. On the state level, there is no need to file a DBA designation in Michigan. However, if you want to use a name that is registered already, all business entities and foreign corporations are required to file a DBA.

What Levels Do DBAs Have to Be Filed On?

While cities within the state of Michigan will vary, you may be required to file for a DBA designation on the local level. In addition, on the county level, sole proprietors and copartnerships that want a DBA will also have a separate filing process. Once again, it is critical that you use Michigan's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs database to determine if the name you wish to operate under is available.

Laws Applicable to Naming Requirements

Under state law, there are certain naming requirements for business entities operating as:

One example of this is, corporate names must include an abbreviation like Corp., co., inc., or ltd., or must use the word corporation, company, incorporated, or limited within their business name.

Filers should review the relevant laws and regulations when filing a DBA and review the restricted word list. In addition, the name of a corporation cannot imply an activity other than those that are described in the articles of incorporation.

Filing for a DBA

Your DBA form will request that you include your name, the principal address of the business, and the trade name you want to operate under. In some cases, if you have been provided an identification number from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Corporations or the Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau, you will want to include this as well.

Again, filing processes will vary and it is recommended that filers consult with governing authorities to make sure they meet all the state requirements for doing business. You will be required to obtain an Employer Identification Number, EIN, if you are hiring employees or form a separate business entity, such as a corporation.

If you need help with doing business in Michigan, 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.