How to Register a Business Name
A step-by-step guide to registering a business name.
Perform a name availability search.
Do an online search.
Do a thorough online search to find out if anyone is conducting business using the name you have chosen.
Search for your business name using a variety of search engines, including Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
If you find mostly unrelated results, perform another search enclosing the search term(s) with quotation marks. This will prompt the search engine to find only exact matches to your search term.
Search your state's business name register.
Visit your Secretary of State's website and search through their database of registered business names.
Some states may require you to request a name availability check.
Find out if the name has been trademarked.
Visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office (UPSTO) website and search the trademark database. If the name has been trademarked by someone else, you will not be able to use it.
Register the name with your state.
Check the requirements for registering a business name in your state.
Naming guidelines and registration requirements can vary by state and will depend on your business structure. Check with your Secretary of State to find out what these are.
Sole proprietors and in many cases partnerships are not required to formally register a business and can simply register a DBA or "doing business as" name with their state or county clerk.
If you are using your legal name as the name of your sole proprietorship, you do not have to register a business name. However, if you intend on using a variation thereof you may be required to register the name.
Reserve your business name.
If you are not immediately going to file the necessary documentation to register your business as an LLC or a corporation with your state, you can reserve your business name. Be sure to take note of how long the name reservation lasts, as this varies by state.
Register your business with the state.
To register your business name with the state you have to legally form your business and file Articles of Incorporation (to form a corporation) or Articles of Organization (to form an LLC) with the state and pay a filing fee.
If you plan on operating under a different name than the one registered with the state, this should be registered by filing a DBA (doing business as), also referred to as a fictitious name. Contact your state's Secretary of State office to find out what you need to file a DBA.
Apply for a trademark.
Decide if you want to trademark your business name at state or federal level.
Trademarking your business name is not legally required but provides you with additional protection should another business attempt to operate under the same or a similar name. You can decide to trademark your name at the state level or on a federal level.
Apply for a trademark.
To apply for a state trademark you have to file an application with your state's trademark authority. You can apply for a federal trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
How much does it cost to register a business name?
The cost of registering a business name varies by state and how you register your business name. If your business is a sole proprietorship and you want to file a DBA only, you are looking at a filing fee of $10 to $100. The filing fees associated with forming an LLC or corporation range from $50 to $500. If you also want to apply for a trademark, this will cost an additional $225 or $275.
Do I have to register a business name?
Unless you are operating as a sole proprietorship under your legal name, most states will require you to register your business name.
How do I register and protect a business name?
You can register a business name by forming a legal business entity, such as an LLC or corporation. If you are a sole proprietor you may still have to file for a DBA. You can also trademark your business name on a state or federal level for additional protection.
How do I know if my business name is taken?
To find out whether your business name is already taken, do an online search, contact your state's Secretary of State office and request a business name check or search the business name register, and perform a trademark search using USPTO's Trademark Electronic Search System.
Where do I register my business name?
Where business names are registered varies by state. In some states, DBAs, assumed business names, or fictitious business names are registered with the county in which the business is physically located, while in others a name can be registered with the state.
How can I register a business name for free?
Unfortunately, you can't register a business name with the state for free. The cost of registering a business name varies by state and how you register. However, if you name your sole proprietorship after yourself, you don't need to register a business name.