The name of your business often forms the first impression for a customer. If you choose to transact business under a name different from your personal name or the name used on the company's articles of formation, you'll need to file a DBA document.
Naming your business may not be as simple as it seems. When selecting a name, try to make the name short, easy to remember, descriptive of the business, and capable of drawing attention. Depending on the business form you choose, you may have to register and/or receive approval from the local or state government where your business is formed.
The name of your business must not be misleading or in any way imply something that the business is not. For example, you can't imply that your business is a licensed plumbing contractor if you haven't received a plumbing license. Likewise, you cannot imply that you are a professional and are providing professional services if you don't have professional credentials.
Naming rules differ by entity type
Below are specific rules and requirements for each of the various business types: sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations.
Naming sole proprietorships.
Sole proprietorships are presumed to operate under their owner's name. If the business will operate under a different name, most jurisdictions require that a fictitious owner affidavit be filed. A fictitious owner affidavit, or a "doing business as" (DBA) filing, informs the local government and the public that the business is operating under an assumed name and indicates who the owner is. The fictitious owner affidavit usually has to be filed with the county recorder of deeds' office rather than the secretary of state's office.
If you are going to use a name other than your own for your business, contact the county recorder of deeds' office (or government equivalent) that your business will be operating in to get specific information and any necessary forms.
Similar to a sole proprietorship, a partnership is presumed to be operating under the name of its partners. If the partnership is going to operate under a different name, a fictitious owner affidavit is required. A fictitious owner affidavit is usually filed at the county recorder of deeds' office, but may have to be filed with the secretary of state's office. A fictitious owner affidavit informs the government and the public that the business is operating under an assumed name and indicates the name of the owner.
Naming limited partnerships.
Choosing a limited partnership name involves more formalities than choosing a sole proprietorship or partnership name. A limited partnership name has to be reserved with the secretary of state's office. The name is usually reserved when the limited partnership files a certificate of limited partnership with the secretary of state's office to register its existence. The name of the limited partnership must include the words "limited partnership," the letters "L.P." or some other phrase indicating that the entity is a limited partnership. Most state statutes specifically identify which descriptions can be used.
A limited partnership's name must be unique. If the name is already in use by another limited partnership, the certificate of limited partnership will be rejected. Save time and effort by determining whether the proposed limited partnership name is available before filing the certificate of limited partnership.
You can find out if the name of your partnership is available by calling your secretary of state's office and telling them that you want to register that name. If the name has been reserved by someone else, they'll tell you. You can also use our free name check service.