Business Formation

How Does the Type of Business I Form Impact What I Can Name My Business?

Sole Proprietorship

Sole proprietorships generally operate under the name of the business owner. If you want to use a different name, most jurisdictions will require that you file a fictitious business name statement stating that you are operating under an assumed or "fictitious name." This statement informs local government and the public that your business is operating under an assumed name. Additionally, you may be requird to publish the fictitious business name statement in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the principal place of business is location. You should check with your city or county on the specific filing requirements that need to be met. Note that some people refer to fictitious or assumed names as "DBAs," meaning "Doing Business As."

Partnership

Like sole proprietorships, a partnership name should include the surnames of the general partners. If you want to do business under a different name, you will need to file a fictitious business name statement indicating the assumed or fictitious name you have chosen.

Limited Liability Partnership ("LLP")

If you form your business as an limited liability partnership, you will need to reserve your business name with your Secretary of State's office. You will usually do this at the same time that you file a certificate of limited partnership to register the LLP's existence. The name of your LLP must contain the letters "L.P.", the words "limited partnership," or some other phrase indicating that you are a limited partnership. Most state have laws which identify explicitly which descriptions you can use.

Corporation

If you decide to form your business as a corporation, you will be required to undergo a formal naming process. The name must be registered with your Secretary of State, must not be reserved for another corporation and must be unique. Many states also require that certain abbreviations (e.g., "Inc.", 'Corp.", "Ltd.") or words (e.g., "Corporation", "Incorporated") appear in your corporate name so that the public can easily identify your business as a corporation. Additionally, if your corporation adopts a name that is not stated in its Articles of Incorporation, it may be required to file a fictitious business name statement. Also be aware that states may also have a list of names that you cannot use in your name, e.g., "Bank", "Federal", "United States."