Naming your business should be done carefully — this is a decision that you will have to live with for a long time. A successful name gives people an idea of the nature of your business, and helps project the image you want for your enterprise. It also helps your customers remember who you are, and sets you apart from your competitors.
Once you come up with a name, you need to make sure it is not already being used. Begin with a search of your local telephone directory and local government offices. You can also check in various trade directories, the Federal Trademark Register, or corporate name listings from your state’s Secretary of State office.
You can also hire someone to do the search for you. Firms such as Thomson & Thomson conduct searches online or over the phone. Expect to pay anywhere from $80 to $500 for such a service.
If you use a fictitious business name (also called a “DBA” or “Doing Business As”), or if your name implies greater ownership (using words such as “and company” or “& son/daughter”), you will need to register it. You file your DBA with your county clerk. You will also likely have to publish it in a general circulation newspaper once a week for four weeks in the country where your business is located. You will then have to file an affidavit of publication with the country clerk.
State registration will protect your business name only in the state you are registered in. For national protection, you may want to register your company name as a trademark or service mark. To do so, contact the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, DC.
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