Four Steps to Legally Establish the Name of Your Small Business

How to Register A Business Name

More women entrepreneurs own sole proprietorships than any other form of business. Even though a sole proprietorship is not subject to the name availability rules of other business structures, you still need to register the name of your business. Partnerships and corporations have slightly different requirements, but no matter what type of business you form, registering the name is usually something you can do on your own.

Step 1. Decide on a Name For Your Business

Female diner owner standing in front of diner
John Coletti/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Coming up with a name is not always so easy to do. But the name you choose will tell your clients and customers a lot about your business. Be sure to put a lot of thought into naming your business. Some businesses have two names: the name the business is legally registered as, and another name that they use for actually doing business. More

Step 2. Check the Availability of the Name You Choose

Before you register your business name it is always a good idea to check to see if someone else is already using it, or one similar to it. For some forms of business structures, a name search may be required before you can register your business.

To check the availability of a business name you need to find your state's listing. Using your favorite search engine type in "state (your state's name) business name search."

Step 3. Using a Fictitious Business Name

If you use a fictitious business name you may need to file a fictitious business name statement. This statement is also known as a “Doing Business As” (DBA) statement. State laws vary on how to do this. Sometimes all you need to do is register with the county clerk, but some states require you place an ad in the newspaper before you can use your fictitious name.

If you are incorporating your business you usually do not need to file a fictitious name statement unless you use a name to do business that is different from the one you register the corporation under. More

Step 4. Registering Your Business Name as a Trademark

This step is not required by law, so consider it an optional expense. But registering the name of your business as a trademark can help protect your rights if someone tries to use your name, or one very similar to it.

If you plan to offer multiple products or conduct business nationally or globally, it is a good idea to consider trademarking your business name. More

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