How Do I Figure Out What In the Heck to Name My Business (Legally)?
Starting your own business can be thrilling and picking out the name of your business can be a really exciting part. It’s also a deceivingly difficult part!
I remember when Kristin and I were starting Dotted Lines… it took us forever to pick out a name. There were so many considerations. The considerations were as basic as how does it sound? To, will it sense and resonate with my audience? Will I be able to build branding around it? Is it taken by anyone else? Would it be confusing with another brand out there? Is the domain available? Just to name a few things!
For purposes of this post, we are going to be focused on the legal considerations associated with picking your business name and building your brand around it. We’ll leave the other considerations (which are no doubt important as well) up to the marketing experts out there!
There are 6 main legal considerations you’ll want to think about when choosing a name.
The first is making sure the name is available with the Secretary of State where you are forming your entity. Each state keeps its own catalogue of name availability, so just because a name is available in Texas does not mean that is going to automatically be available in California. So, you’ll want to check with the Secretary of State to confirm name availability for the state in which you are forming the entity.
Next, you’ll want to check the USPTO’s website and do a search for the name on its trademark database. A common misconception is that once you form your entity with a specific name with your Secretary of State that you have rights and protections to that name. Because every state has its own name catalogue, the only way to get federal legal protection of your name across all 50 states is to get a trademark on your business name. Don’t be fooled by thinking once you create your entity with the state that the name is safe and belongs to you – it is not!
Third, you’ll want to make sure any domain names that you’d like associated with your brand are available. If you are set on a “.com” suffix, the space is very crowded, and it can be difficult to find open domains. You may need to be open to using an alternative ending (such as “.co”) or keep searching until you can find a name with a domain name you feel comfortable with.
Fourth, you’ll want to make sure the handles you want are available through the various social medium platforms you intend to utilize as part of your business (such as Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and TikTok, to name a few).
Fifth, we always recommend doing a google search of your desired name before settling on it just to see what else is out there. If you have a competitor using a similar name, it may be worth it to pick something different just to avoid any confusion.
Finally, if you think you may operate under more than 1 name, you could consider filing a DBA (short for “doing business as”) with your state as well. We will have a separate blog post on this topic in the future since there are a number of nuances to think about here.
It’s definitely not easy and having a little flexibility among the various mediums can be key. For our own name, for example, our official name with the Secretary of State in Texas is Dotted Lines Co., LLC but our domain is www.dottedlinesco.com. We have a trademark application for the phrase Dotted Lines, and most of our social medium handles are @dottedlinescontracts. So, you’ll see that even for our own name, we had to have some flexibility in variations of the name to accomplish all of our objectives in these spaces. We personally loved the name Dotted Lines name since it was a spin on “just sign on the dotted line”… jargon you hear in the legal world all the time. More importantly, we felt it aligned well with our mission as it is really our primary goal to make getting your business legally ready and in place of growth as easy as signing on a dotted line.
ALTHOUGH KELLY AND KRISTIN ARE LICENSED ATTORNEYS IN THE STATE OF TEXAS, NEITHER THEY NOR DOTTED LINES CO,. LLC ARE YOUR ATTORNEY, NEITHER THEY NOR DOTTED LINES CO., LLC HAS AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU, AND NEITHER THEY NOR DOTTED LINES CO, LLC KNOWS YOUR BUSINESS. THE INFORMATION IN THIS POST IS NOT TO BE CONSIDERED LEGAL ADVICE, AND YOU SHOULD NOT CONSIDER IT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. WE ALWAYS RECOMMEND CONSULTING WITH AN ATTORNEY IN YOUR LOCAL JURISDICTION SINCE THEY WILL BE ABLE TO ADVISE YOU AS TO YOUR PARTICULAR SITUATION AND ALSO PROVIDE YOU WITH INFORMATION SURROUNDING ANY NUANCES OF YOUR LOCAL LAWS THAT WE SIMPLY CANNOT ADDRESS IN THIS POST. FURTHER, WE DO NOT GUARANTEE ANY SPECIFIC RESULTS.