Register Company Name

Registering a company name provides official record of an entity’s fictitious “Doing Business As” name. If branding is the most important factor in creating a marketable image for an organization, formal record of business name registration serves to document rights to use in a trademark application. A DBA can be registered at the state level in the jurisdiction where a business is maintained. Trademark registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) further protects a company’s legal identity, and may include registration of a company name; also described in a phrase, or illustrated in a logo or symbol. With exception of sole proprietorships, company name registration is mandatory under federal law.

Trademark registration of a name is not a copyright of an original work, but intellectual property of a company or celebrity who holds rights to use and terms of distribution. The USPTO describes rules to distribution for the purposes of promotion or sale. Trademark protects a company and its brand from unconsented infringement, including counterfeit of the mark and its products, services, and marketing. Registering a company name is one of the most important steps in owning a business. Search the “Trademark Electronic Search System” TESS, for same or similar name(s) in the USPTO database prior to submission of application, ensures that a name is available for trademark registration.

Filing a DBA

Filing a “Doing Business As” DBA Fictitious Business Name is the easiest way of placing a company name on official record. The assumed business name once registered, protects a business from infringement, and obliges any entity using its legal name to comply with the rules to trademark. DBA offers a vital legal element to a start-up business seeking to delineate its interests in an innovation, while undergoing USPTO patent registration for an invention. Approval of a DBA does not require that a business be a formal entity.

The main reason for registering a DBA fictitious business name, is that the owner of the company seeks legal recognition of the assumed name. The DBA is the fastest path to initiating contract business negotiations, as well as to fulfill practical aspects of owning and operating the company, such as open a business checking account. Most importantly, by registering the DBA the owner of the company distances themselves from business liabilities of the legal entity, while retaining control over the use, distribution and copy of the name.

“Limited Liability Company” LLC businesses can register for more than one DBA to add a layer of legal protection to this flexible business income model, often used by sole proprietorships or professional partnerships instead of a corporation or S-corporation. States and their counties, keep a record of fictitious business names to prevent legal confusion between commercial entities, and to protect consumers served by those businesses.

Public disclosure requirements of DBA, as well as continued monitoring of DBA by states, protects consumers from violations by companies conducting business in those jurisdictions. DBA filing by a LLC or other business, also establishes a name for Internal Revenue Service tax filing. In the case of multi-owner partnership LLC, rules to tax filing require that those entities file IRS Form 1065 to record proportional distribution of earnings to the members or owners of the company. Registration for a DBA may differ state-to-state. Contact the county clerk in your area to find out the requirements, procedures, and fees associated with registering a Fictitious Business Name application.

Creating an Official Structure

The formation of a corporation, S-corporation, or LLC automatically establishes a business name on official record. Approval of a business requires verification that a name is not already taken in the state of operation. Domain registration generally means a company is interested in conducting business globally, or at least nationwide. National name registration requires trademark of the company. To register a business name with the USPTO, an entity must be register its business structure. Select a name that complies with states rules of eligibility. Registration of a “Limited Liability Company” must include the term “LLC, L.L.C., LC, or “limited company” in the title.

Filing “articles of organization” with the state is not required of LLC registrants in all states, but is required for S-corporation and corporations. Articles of organization include business name and address, and outline owner interests, including proportional rights to distribution, board governance, management, finance, and tax reporting. Partnerships are considered under multi-owner LLC status by default. To register for LLC status with the state, a company must publish notice of intent. State, county, and municipal jurisdictions vary in terms of required operating permits. Check with the government agency responsible for permits and licensing of businesses in the industry of operation. A business name registration is required for submission of licensing and permit applications for operation.

Tax exempt non-profit entities generally are incorporated in the state where they originated. Incorporation is a standard business registration process that requires a registered business name and application with the Secretary of State in the state where the business will be maintained. Due to the nature of nonprofit fundraising, some nonprofits may find it useful to register an entity in the states where contributing donors, corporations, or foundations are located. Consistency in name recognition and verified trademark of an organization’s name serves to better market a charitable organization online, and with the community of business and private donors that may be interested. Philanthropists benefit from contributing finance and pro bono resources. IRS tax filing for a nonprofit requires submission of details from accounting record and annual financial statement, along with forms. The form for tax exempt status of a nonprofit can be found on the IRS.gov website.  

To register for a corporation, the title of the entity must comply with state regulations in the state where the headquarters of the company. Designated use of acronyms for registered business entities in this category dictates that “Corp.,” “Corporation,” “Inc,” or similar word must be in the title. Verification of the uniqueness of a business name is required for Secretary of State approval. Other details to business registration of a corporation, include “articles of incorporation”. A board of directors is generally required to meet eligibility requirements for corporate entity operations. Number of board members, however, depends on the state of registration. The application for corporation or S-corporation (small entity) registration requires business name, details about the business, and a filing fee. The filing fees to register a business typically range from $100 to $1,000, depending on the state.

Registering for Trademark

Trademark registration with the USPTO is the surest method of protecting the integrity and trade value of a company name. Applicants registering a business name for trademark can refer to the USPTO.gov website for details about how to prepare for registration. The benefits to trademark registration are many. Although there is no guarantee that a trademark will be protected across national borders, the USPTO is partner in the Madrid System. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) provides that the Madrid System is a cost-effective and convenient solution for business registration of trademarks. A global database of registrants in 115 countries, the Madrid System’s global trademark portfolio reduces the risk of DBA fictitious business name adoption and infringement liability.

Registered trademarks, while not fully enforceable abroad, offer a stronger protection than common law marks. Registered trademark holders have a better chance of recovering property in lawsuit. If considering a trademark, perform a comprehensive search prior to application with the USPTO. The Madrid System will indicate if an entity abroad already carries the same name in a similar capacity. Rejection of applications based on a conflict of name are common. Rejected applicants lose their application fee. Be aware of existing business name registration before applying for trademark.

Once a company has decided to register its trademark, the next step in the process is to submit application. The USPTO online application for trademark can take as little as 90 minutes to complete. Prior to submission of the online application for registration, search the TESS database to ensure that another company does not hold the same name or similar mark, in the same or related category of goods, services, or professional field.

USPTO trademark registration filing fees cost from $275 to $325, and are determined by categories of business for which the mark will be used. Date of the brand’s first appearance in commerce, and details to the logo or design component associated with the mark are key to verifying the uniqueness and authenticity of a company’s trademark claim. The USPTO recommends that businesses should refrain from full domain address with .net or .com, as the original DBA, to avoid complications with licensing and brand recognition. Discretionary naming is the key to registering a business name for trademark.

Approval of trademark registration takes up to 6 months for final authorization. To avoid confusion, a mark that is distinct in name will most likely pass the USPTO trademark examination, and have less competition in the marketplace. Registration entitles a trademark holder to complete control over the distribution, use, and transfer of a business name. If the trademarked name is also the DBA and trade name, contract rights to performance and compensation are less ambiguous when conducting business. With trademark, ownership of related design features of a business name, brand or mark, such as colors, logos, symbols, and slogans is easier to enforce.

Choosing Which Method Is Right for You

The registration of a business name as a DBA, LLC, S-corporation, corporation or nonprofit depends on business type and state rules. The secretary of state website where the business will be operating offers information on the business registration process, and the details to selecting an entity name that will meet those requirements. Most state business registration websites also offer advice on preparation and steps to seeking approval on a business name.

Once a business registration is approved, the company can provide public notice of title or name within that state jurisdiction where the entity will be maintained. With a successful trademark application, the DBA fictitious business name becomes the legal identity of the organization. Trademark is key for controlling competition. If a business name proves to be confusing for consumers; dilution of value may be the next step for the brand. Trademark protections guarantee that a company has the right to the reproduction and sale of brand name products or services.

With trademark registration, protection of a business name from infringement or litigation is relatively simple, as the registrant holds the title to the name. Consult with an attorney to discuss a legal issue related to a trademark dispute. USPTO trademark examination specialists can also provide detailed information about trademark registration, and filing dispute in the case of violation. Having formal USPTO certification is the best method of retaining a business name.

If you need help registering a company name, 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, Stripe, and Twilio.