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ComplianceAugust 18, 2023

How to register a business name for your LLC

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When you form an LLC, one of the first steps you must take is selecting a name that will represent your business.

In this article, we explain step-by-step how to register your business name and other name registration requirements you may need to navigate.

What is a legal name for an LLC?

The legal name of your LLC is used by your state to identify your business. The name you choose will appear on your LLC’s formation document (aka Articles of Incorporation).

As a business entity, you may change your LLC’s legal name as often as you choose, however you can only have one legal name at any given time.

Let’s look at the process of registering your LLC’s business name.

Step 1: Know required words

Most state business entity laws or statutes require that your LLC’s name, as set forth in your formation document, contains specific words, phrases, or an abbreviation indicating the type of entity you are forming.

For instance, the name of your LLC must include the words “limited liability company”, the letters” L.L.C.” or “LLC,” or another phrase that indicates that your entity is a limited liability company. Most states specify the specific word or phrase that you must use.

Step 2: Avoid restricted words

Many states prohibit the use of certain words or phrases in a legal business name. There are some terms that are considered inappropriate or may mislead the public.

For example, a state may not allow you to use the term “insurance” in your legal business name if you are not an insurance company. Alternatively, the state may require that you obtain approval from the department that handles business licensing for insurance companies before permitting use of the word in your LLC’s name.

Step 3: Conduct a trademark search

Trademark infringement can be a costly mistake, and it’s easily done. That’s because state filing offices do not check federal, state, or common law trademark records to determine whether a business name is distinguishable. They only check the state’s business entity filing records for use of the same name. If there’s no conflict, then they will approve the name registration.

Before filing your LLC’s business name, check it against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) official trademark database. The USPTO also offers tips on how to conduct a trademark search.

Step 4: Check name availability

Some states require that your LLC’s name is “distinguishable on the records” of the Secretary of State (or similar office) from the name of other LLCs (domestic or foreign) and other business entities. Essentially, your LLC’s name can’t be the same or like the name of another LLC registered with that state’s database.

There are variances to this rule. For example, some state laws require that a business entity’s name doesn’t conflict with the name of a business entity in a similar field or industry. While others outright prohibit any conflict with all business entities that register with the state.

Check if your LLC name is available by conducting a name search on your state’s formation website. You can also contact the filing office and ask about the availability of the name.

If the name is available, you may file an application to reserve the name. This secures your rights to the name and prevents another entity from forming an LLC using or reserving the same name. You can typically reserve a business name for 120 days.

Step 5: Register your LLC name with the Secretary of State

When you file your Articles of Organization or formation documents with the Secretary of State, most states require you to also register your business name.

If you are an existing LLC, you can change your entity’s legal name and register a new one by filing “Articles of Amendment” or equivalent with the state. (Note: the name change must be approved by owner/members of your LLC and comply with the rules described in steps 1-4 above).

Step 6: Register your domain name (optional)

To register a website in your LLC’s name, you will first need to register a domain name (aka a website address or URL) through a domain name registrar service. If you are using a web builder service, a domain name registration service may be included as part of the offering. Alternatively, consult a list of accredited registrars and select one based on pricing (including renewals), data privacy, security, reviews, and more.

If you can’t find an appropriate domain name, check the registrar’s help facility. They may be able to suggest an available name that is similar to your choice.

Step 7: Register your LLC’s assumed name or DBA (optional)

A “doing business as” (DBA) name (aka a trade name or assumed name), is a name that is separate to your LLC’s legal business name. For example, if your LLC’s legal name is “Wilson and Wilson Nail Parlor,” you could file a DBA to conduct business as “Lush Nail Bar.” This assumed name can be used on signage, your website, and in other marketing materials.

To file a DBA, conduct a name search and complete and file the appropriate forms and fee with your state or county or both. Upon receipt you will receive a DBA certificate.

Read more in: What is a DBA ? (And how to register one).

Step 8: Register your LLC’s name as a trademark (optional)

A trademark protects your business name and logo against infringement by another business or entity. You can register for a trademark with the USPTO or use the services of an intellectual property or trademark registration lawyer.

For more information, see What is a trademark?

small business services

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Nikki Nelson
Customer Service Manager
small business services


Helping entrepreneurs stay compliant

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