Can I Name a Company Without Registering for an LLC?

By River Braun, J.D.

Can I Name a Company Without Registering for an LLC?

By River Braun, J.D.

You may choose a name for your business without registering for an LLC or choosing another formal business structure for your company. However, there are reasons why registering a business name is preferable than simply choosing a name and opening the doors for business. By registering the company name with the state in which you intend to conduct business, you ensure that the name of your company is unique. The Secretary of State is typically the agency in each state that handles business formations and registering business names.

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Choosing a Unique Business Name

Using a company name that is the same or similar to another company's name can confuse your customers. A company may also raise allegations of copyright or trademark infringement if you use the same name or a similar name for your company that another company is already using. Most states do not require companies to register names that are identical or similar to another company's name.

Registering the company name ensures that you have the sole right to use the name in your state. Failing to register the name could lead to a great deal of time and money building a brand, purchasing advertising, and buying materials for your company that are worthless when you discover you cannot use the name you chose for the company because another company already registered the name.

LLC Designation as Part of Your Company Name

If you choose to form a Limited Liability Company or LLC, you have the right to use LLC as part of your business name when you register it. Some individuals equate a formal company with a trusted, reputable business. Therefore, the letters “LLC" after a company name can help some new companies attract more business. It also alerts individuals and other entities that the company is a separate legal entity that is not tied to your personal assets or finances. This fact could be very important if the company faces a lawsuit or creditors pursue collection actions for unpaid company debts.

Most states require that a business use these three letters or other LLC designation as part of the company name to designate that the company is operating as a a limited liability company. Many states also restrict companies from using certain words in the company name if operating under this business structure. Your Secretary of State's office can provide information related to the requirements for naming an LLC.

Registering a DBA Name

Some individuals prefer to use a fictitious or “doing business as"name instead of their formal LLC name. If so, you can also register your DBA name or a trade name with your state's Secretary of State office. Registering a DBA name or a trade name has the same advantages of registering a company name. Registering the DBA name prevents other companies from using the name and prevents wasted time and money branding the name only to discover you cannot use the name because another company registered it.

Trademarking Your Name

Registering a company or a company name is different from registering a trademark. By registering your company name as a trademark, you ensure that no one in any state can use the company name or logo. Taking this additional step can ensure that your company name remains unique so that customers find your company instead of a competitor.

While it is not necessary to register your company as an LLC or obtain a trademark for your business name, these additional steps help protect you and your business from legal hassles down the road.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.