Startup Legal Issues

How to Name Your Company: Legal Considerations

Looking for a name for your startup small business? From a legal perspective, finding the perfect name for your new company may be more difficult than it seems.

Selecting a name for your business can be one of the most exciting aspects of the startup process.

How to Name Your Company Legal Considerations

Although there is a lot riding on your company's name, it's exhilarating to create a concrete identity that will be the foundation of your company's branding and marketing activities.

But creating a legal business name isn't as easy as it used to be. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are nearly 28 million small businesses in the U.S. In practical terms, that means there at least 28 million names that you may be legally prohibited from using for your startup.

The safest way to ensure that your startup's name is legal and unique is to employ the services of a professional naming firm and trademark attorney. But if you don't have several thousands dollars to invest in the process, here are a few tips to help you in your quest to secure an effective and legal name for your business.

  • Be Unique. The first rule of thumb in naming a business is to make your name as unique as possible. Invest the time and effort it takes to come up with a one-of-a-kind business name that has legs in the marketplace and gives consumers a clue about what your company does. For example, using your own name as your business name increases its uniqueness, but may not perform well with consumers.
  • Perform a Search. Once you have developed a handful of good names for your business, conduct an informal search to eliminate conflicts with existing firms. A simple Google search is a good place to start. Since you will probably also want to create a website for your company, research available domain names to determine whether or not your name (or a variation of it) can be secured for a site name.
  • File a DBA. Many entrepreneurs select fictitious names for their companies. Although the requirements vary by state jurisdiction, if you are using a name other than your own name for your business, you must file a DBA ("Doing Business As") statement, usually with your country clerk.
  • Register a Trademark. You are not legally required to formally register your business name or trademark (other than a DBA). However, the formal registration process is helpful in protecting your name from infringement by other businesses. As your business grows and the stakes increase, you should seriously consider investing in formal registration as a way of securing your rights to your business name.

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