Registering your business name is the best way to protect your business and prevent other prospective business owners from using it. The three most popular ways are discussed here.
There are several factors that will influence how you decide to register your business. Taking into account the business structure you desire, the geographical area in which your business operates and the level of protection you and your business require are all important factors to consider when deciding how you’re going to register the business name.
To register your business name you can either form a legal business entity using your business name, register the business name as a fictitious name or DBA (Doing Business As), or you can register the business name as a federal trademark. Let’s look at the three options in more detail below.
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Forming A Business Entity
Forming a legal business entity is one sure way of protecting your business name and your business itself. When forming a LLC (limited liability company) or a corporation, it is required that business owners stipulate the name of the business along with other important registration details. Once the business is filed with the state, the business name is automatically registered. While certain states do have business naming rules and regulations, the main thing is that no other business in the state in which you registered your business is using the name you’ve chosen for your business. Doing some research to check whether your chosen name is already used by an existing company is required before you register your business as a legal entity..
Registering a business name by forming a business entity also has other perks. Forming a business entity provides business owners with certain legal protections they would otherwise not have, and it also allows business owners to register the business, along with their business name, in a different state if they wish to expand, provided that no other business is using the business name in the new state.
Registering a Fictitious Name
Any business that operates under a name other than the one they registered with the state, in other words their legal business name, are required to register the other name as an assumed or fictitious name. This includes sole proprietorships, LLCs, corporations and partnerships. An assumed or fictitious name is also referred to as a DBA.
In the case of sole proprietorships, if an owner wants to conduct business in a name other than his own name then registering for a DBA is the best way to ensure that other business owners can’t use his business name. However, LLCs, corporations and partnerships can also register a DBA in instances when they do not want to use their state-registered business name. This is often the case when major corporations have different brands and aim to promote or sell products and services under the name of one or many of their brands. However, a DBA only protects a business name in the county in which it is registered. If a business operates in more than a single country, they would need to register their business name as a fictitious name in that county too.
Registering your business name as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office is another way to protect your business name. This is a slightly more complex and expensive way of registering your business name but doing it this way offers protection for your business name across all states in the U.S. While every state allows you to obtain a trademark registration, federal trademark registration offers the widest protection.
It is important to check that the business name you’ve chosen to register is not already trademarked by an individual or organization, and there are certain requirements and limitations in terms of trademarking business names that you would need to consider first.
Should You Only Pick One?
Some businesses can use a combination of the three different business name registration methods discussed above while other businesses can only utilize one of them. The business registration, and registering a business name, all depends on the nature of the business and to what extent business owners want to protect their business name from others.