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by Women About Biz Staff

Sharon's Pet Service, JG & Associates, Tickler, Inc.... Choosing a business name is fun and challenging at the same time.  It is one of the most important parts of starting your business.  It gives birth to your business and a sense of ownership before you even get it started.

From a legal perspective there will also be requirements on a local state level and also on a national level if you are seeking to protect your name throughout the US.  Normally you can register your business name in the county in which you live or do business in.  This is called a D.B.A. (Doing Business As) filing or a Fictitious or Business Name.  In addition, you can also Trademark your business name especially if you will be doing business outside of your state.

Below, please more information on the various business name registrations:

Local & State Registrations
DBA or Fictitious Business Name

In most states if you will be using a business name other than your own name, you'll need to register it to make sure that other individuals won't be able to use the name that you have chosen for your business.  In addition you will protect yourself from using someone else's business name, because you will have to search the states database or directory to ensure that no one is using the name you've chosen.  Normally, most county business license departments can also register your business name.  However, some states handle registration through the local court system.  Either way a fee is normally charged.

Most home-based businesses and other sole proprietors will register their business name with the state to prevent anyone else from having it.  Another reason to get your business name registered in your state would be if you incorporated your small business and decided to operate under another name.

Registering Your Corporate Name

If you decide to incorporate your business, you'll be filing your articles of incorporation with your secretary of state office.  Normally you will complete a incorporation application and submit it along with your articles.  Once submitted the secretary of state processors will review your application and ensure that no other company is using your corporate name.  Once your articles have been filed and you have been given a certificate of incorporation in your state, you can use your corporate name freely.  However, if other sole proprietors or partnerships are using your same name and are registered under a DBA or Fictitious Business Name, it might cause a problem especially if their business is in the same industry as yours.  Because of this possibility, make sure you also check your local business license office, county recorders office or court department to ensure that you are completely free to use your proposed name.

Federal Trademark

The United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) states that a trademark "protects words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods. Trademarks, unlike patents, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in commerce."

Most small business owners are now having their name federally trademarked whether they plan on operating their companies in other states or just staying in one location.  As a precaution, it is wise to also go ahead do a national trademark search to ensure that you could register federally if you wanted to.  Visit http://www.uspto.gov/ to do a basic search on your proposed business name.  If your search reveals that no one else is using your name federally you might want to seriously consider having your name trademarked by a professional company such as Legal Zoom.  It is a legal services company founded by some of the most prestigious attorneys in the US.  Their goal is to provide quality legal services and a non-legal price.

Deciding how far you want to go with registering your business name won't be easy, but you must look at your business and its growth potential to make sure that you are protecting your company and its future profits.

Please Note: Women About Biz and its staff writers are providing the above resource purely as information.  We are not a legal firm or attorney and recommend that all businesswomen seek the advice of legal counsel on any and all business matters regarding the legal formation of their small business.