Register Business Name

When registering a business name in a “Doing Business As” DBA Fictitious Business Name filing, a public record of an entity is created. Registration for a DBA is usually obtained through the Secretary of State or County Clerk in the jurisdiction where the business is organized. The United States Federal Small Business Administration offers a state-by-state guide to DBA application.

Create an official business structure

Establishing an official business structure requires submitting articles of incorporation, articles of organization, or statement of limited partnership to the state. Businesses registered as corporations or “limited liability company” LLC, automatically register a business name at time of filing. Internal Revenue Service filing of a business, registers an entity with the federal government for tax purposes. Business name registration is not, however, automatic brand protection. Intellectual property rights to brand name assets requires submission of an application for registration of trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Trademark registration application should follow business name registration to ensure that rights to a name are secured. Registration of a DBA name as a logo, symbol, or phrase with the USPTO further protects the rights of a company and its legal identity from infringement and misuse by competitors. Companies focused on nationwide or global expansion of a business do not hold the same protections outside of the jurisdiction where the business is maintained without filing for trademark.

The SBA provides steps to protecting a DBA fictitious business name in the U.S. and internationally. Foreign companies interested in doing business in a state can also better protect themselves by registering a business name with the Secretary of State in the state where they will be operating, in addition to trademark.

The rules governing nomenclature of LLCs and LLPs, vary state-to-state. Name selection for a business must comply with state rules to registration. LLC must file “articles of organization,” outlining the operating agreement of the company, including ownership, apportionment, and management structure. Published notice of intent to notice of LLC formation is mandatory in some states. Check the state regulations in the jurisdiction where the entity will be registered to find out if public disclosure of DBA fictitious name, and filing of articles of organization is required.

Nonprofit organization registration applicants must file articles of incorporation, including information about the entity and its officers with the Secretary of State website. Tax exempt status with the IRS can take up to 12 months to qualify. Review the rules to nonprofit reporting published on the IRS website. A nonprofit business can also register its DBA in states where fundraising takes place to eliminate delays in philanthropic contribution by tax deduction seeking parties.

Owners forming a corporation may file to register a C corporation or S corporation, depending on capital, structural capacity, and intended growth of an organization. Business name registration is one of the first steps to filing for a corporation. The DBA must comply with state regulations to naming in the industry in which a company will do business. Designation of a business as a corporation requires that the word “Corporation”, “Corp” or similar be present in the title. A DBA must also be unique, and not similar in name already in use by another business, especially a competitor.

Business name registration details can be found at the Secretary of State’s SOS office website. Business name registration should serve to protect the brand identity, financial and legal liability of a company and its stakeholders. Depending on the state, a company may be required to have multiple business name registrations. Trademark of DBA is highly recommended for corporations involved in selling goods and services.

Creating a business structure is the key to securing a DBA as a legal name for a company. Filing articles of incorporation with business name cited in registration affirms name election once approved. The cost for organizing a business structure usually ranges between $100 to $800 in filing fees. Visit the American Bar Association website to search for resources for forming of LLC and corporations entities, and to hire an attorney.

Get a trademark

A business can protect a business name registration by filing a trademark application with the USPTO. The registration of a DBA as a trademark protects a company brand from infringement, misappropriation, and counterfeit in all 50 states of the United States. A trademark from the USPTO does not guarantee protections abroad. A stronger protection than copyright, trademark offers specific protection where a name associated with the legal identity of an entity and its products, goods, and services are concerned. Once registered with USPTO trademark, it is must easier for a business to recuperate misappropriated property.

A trademark may include slogans, logos, colors, and symbols associated with the DBA name of a business. In the global marketplace, brand recognition and company integrity often rest on recognizable trademark of a well-known brand. Corporations capitalize on trademark registration through the licensing of products or services to third parties. While not required for official business status, trademark is an option that promotes the brand identity of a corporation.

If a business is growth oriented, a trademark protects the DBA of a company from competitors. For instance, trademark registration adds a layer of protection to the identity of a corporation at time of initial public offering when a stock ticker is registered with the Security and Exchange Commission. Widely recognized by consumers and investors, a trademark delineates the legal identity of a company in a word, phrase or symbol.

Conducting a comprehensive search for existing trademarks of the same or similar name in the USPTO database will protect a company from wasting time and resources on a denied application. Trademark registration gives intellectual property rights, including rights to enrichment should the use of the mark be violated. Registration of a business name with the USPTO entitles a business to exploit a name toward the benefit of the company, and to trade competitively in the marketplace. The filing fees for USPTO trademark registration cost $200 and $300, compared to the cost of a DBA at about $100 for registration.

To find out if a name qualifies as for trademark protection and the steps to registration, visit the USPTO website.

Decide on a Name for Your Business

A business name reflects the interests of an entity and its ownership. Businesses often have two names: the name of legal registration, and the “Doing Business As” DBA known by consumers.

Check the Availability of the Name You Choose

Search for the name selected to determine if it is in use to avoid delays in name registration.

Using a Fictitious Business Name

The registration of a DBA statement with a state, county or city clerk, places a business name on official record. Public disclosure in a newspaper is generally required as part of the process. The SBA can provide additional information on using a fictitious business name.

If You Need Help

Visit the state's Secretary of State or Department of Corporations website for details about registration of a business.

Registering the Name of a Corporation, LLC, or Limited Partnership

Articles of incorporation or statement of limited partnership required for C corporation, S corporation, LLC, or limited partnership for registration purposes. A fictitious business name is automatically registered with those documents. In most states, LLC entities file an assumed name certificate, or fictitious name statement like a corporation with the Secretary of State.

Those entities selling products or services under a separate brand name must file an assumed name certificate or fictitious name statement. The same rules apply to use of a LLC name without the suffix "Limited Liability Company" or acronym "LLC."

In some states, like Massachusetts, an LLC also must file a DBA certificate with the city clerk. Owners can also register a DBA fictitious business name on the U.S. Small Business Administration's website.

Examples of Fictitious Business Names

Sole proprietorships, partnerships, and LLC all must file a fictitious name statement if the last name of owner(s) is not included in the title. C corporations and S corporations all file a DBA fictitious business name as part of the rules to incorporation, maintaining separation between entity and owners.

Why You Must Register Your Fictitious Business Name

Record of fictitious business name is required by states for several reasons. First, states seek to prevent consumer confusion. Second, a ready search of the owner of a business without a private investigator. Third, legal complaint is actionable. Fourth, Banks will not open a business checking account without the properly registered name. Finally, competitor appropriation of the same name is impossible.

How to Register Your Fictitious Business Name

Registration of a fictitious business name is done by filing with the Secretary of State in most U.S. states. Some states, like California, county registration is also required. Consult with the state government where a business will be maintained, to ensure that all paperwork has been filed with the right agencies. Most counties and municipalities require businesses in specific industries to license and/or permit to operations.

Visit the county clerk’s office to find out the procedures, requirements, and fees associated with doing business in the jurisdiction where your company will be located. Register a name that's already in use. Check the Secretary of State or county clerk database for existing name registration. Most states require public disclosure of fictitious name in a newspaper and submission of an affidavit or proof of publication. Any business not using the legal name of the officer or entity owning business), must comply with fictitious business name requirements.

Business owners requiring assistance in filing business name registration, articles of incorporation, or for partnership or single member LLC status, can consult with UpCounsel. Inquiries about the business incorporation process and state registration can be submitted for a legal consultancy on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel lawyers represent the top 5 percent attorneys in the United States, graduating from top law schools such as Harvard Law School and Yale Law School. UpCounsel attorneys have an average 14 years of legal experience, and have represented corporate clients like Google and Menlo Ventures.