How to Set Up a Business Name in Wisconsin

By Mike Keenan

Your business name is the first thing your customers learn about you. Customers use it to recommend you to others, and you use it to promote your business. In Wisconsin, unincorporated businesses need to register their name with both the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions and the county Register of Deeds in which they do business. Incorporated businesses register their name as part of the incorporation process.

Name Availability

Before attempting to register your name, you should determine whether it would infringe on any existing name, registered or unregistered. The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions maintains a searchable database of registered names that can serve as a starting point for making sure the name you want to set up is not already taken. The Department of Financial Institutions also recommends checking the Internet, telephone books, trade journals and other publications available at the public library to make sure you aren't infringing on another party's name.

Corporations, LLPs, and LLCs

If you plan to operate your business as a corporation, including an S corporation, limited liability corporation or limited liability partnership, your name will be set up when you incorporate or organize the business. For these business entities, you need to file articles of incorporation, or articles of organization, with the Department of Financial Institutions. Generally, it takes about five working days to approve charter documents in Wisconsin. If you have a name that you want to use, but aren't quite ready to start your business, you can reserve the business name for up to 120 days -- or 60 days for limited partnerships -- for a small fee.

Ready to start your LLC? Start an LLC Online Now

Unincorporated Registration with Counties

If you plan to have a sole proprietorship or regular partnership, you should first register your business name with each county in which you plan to do business. If you do business in multiple counties, you must register with each register of deeds, but the form is the same for each county. In the county registration form, you need to specify the county in which you want to register, your name, your business name, and the names of your associates in the business, if any. You also have to specify whether you are operating as a sole proprietorship, partnership or association. This form must be notarized.

Unincorporated Registration with the State

You should also register your business name at the state level with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. Registering with the state, while optional, gives notice of your business name throughout the entire state. The Department of Financial Institutions application requires your identifying information, your type of entity if you are not registering the name as an individual, and the name you want to register. You also have to specify the first date on which you used the name so that in the event of a conflict, you have a record of when you started using the name. All applications must be notarized and include a fee.


In Wisconsin, using the business name, not just registering the name, grants a party rights to the name. For example, if another business has been using the name you want for a number of years without registering it, that business could have rights to the name even if you register it first. Therefore, just because the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions accepts your name, that does not mean you have exclusive rights to the name.

Ready to start your LLC? Start an LLC Online Now
How to Establish a DBA



Related articles

DBA as a Sole Proprietorship in Massachusetts

Naming a business is often a very important step from a branding perspective. In Massachusetts, business registrations are typically handled by the Secretary of the Commonwealth. For owners that choose to structure their business as a sole proprietorship, the name of the company defaults to the name of the owner. In some cases, however, this may not be a desirable option. In such cases, a new fictitious business name must be registered locally before the company can operate. The procedure involves the completion and filing of a certificate containing the addresses and names of the business and owner as well as the payment of a filing fee. The fictitious name will then be included on all government forms and tax filings as well as any applicable licenses and permits.

Rules on Naming Your Business in Tennessee

When you want to start a business, one of the first things you must do is pick a name. The Tennessee Secretary of State Division of Business Services handles the registration of business names and sets the rules for whether your desired name is available or even allowable. Even if you're doing business as a sole proprietorship and not required to register your name, it's a good idea because registration creates a public record of the use of your name and can avoid legal battles later.

What Do You Need to Register a Business Name?

For many customers, your business name is the first point of reference they have with regard to your company. Leave a good impression, and you could be well on your way to making a lifelong customer. Give a bad impression, and that person might never give your business a chance. How you register the name of your business depends on the type of name you're registering.

LLCs, Corporations, Patents, Attorney Help

Related articles

How to File a DBA on Your Own in Iowa

When you operate a business under any name besides the registered name or your own name if you are a sole proprietor, ...

How to Legalize a Business Name in Louisiana

In Louisiana, any time you use a name besides your own (or your business's registered name) for business, you have to ...

Advantages & Disadvantages of Filing for a Fictitious Business Name

The name you use to conduct business can greatly affect the success of your endeavor. While you're required by state ...

How to Operate an LLC Under a Personal Name

A limited liability company, or LLC, must register with a state. Part of the process of registering is selecting a ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED