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Jean   Murray

Why You Should Register Your Business Name with Your State

By February 20, 2011

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Can two businesses in a state have the same name?  Well, they can, but they shouldn't.  I'll explain:  Recently I was working with a new corporation that wanted to start in Illinois and we ran into an interesting problem with the business name.

We filed the Articles of Incorporation online and received the approval.  Then we got an attorney involved to draw up the corporation's by-laws and some other documents.  The attorney did some checking and found two corporations with almost exactly the same name in the state (one was singular and the other was plural).

If we had gone through the attorney in the first place, and if we had specifically registered the business name with the state, we would have found out about the other name.  Or would we?

Do I Need to Register My Business Name?

If you are forming a legal entity recognized by the state (like a corporation or partnership or LLC), the name registration should be part of the process of getting your business accepted by the state (note I said "should be"), so you shouldn't need to pay extra for a separate registration.  If you are forming a sole proprietorship, you should specifically register your business name with the state, since sole proprietorships aren't registered.

Supposedly, if you file Articles of Incorporation with your state, or Articles of Organization for an LLC, the state should go through the process of checking to see if your business name has been used already.  They obviously didn't do that with the company in Illinois.

How to Register a Business Name with Your State

To register a business name, go to the website of your state's secretary of state.  Search to see if there is another business using your name in the state data base of registered business names.  If the name doesn't appear. you can register the name you want by following the process described by your state.

Finding out that your business has the same name as another business is not a good thing.  It may be a good reason to let an attorney work the incorporation process for you.  I'm all for saving money, but having the same name as another business could be an issue later, especially if both businesses are the same type or the same location or both (both Italian restaurants in Naperville, for example).

Bottom line: Check thoroughly before you finalize a business name and start putting that name on legal documents and advertising materials.  You may want to register the name with your state, even if you don't have to.

More about Selecting, Registering, and Trademarking Your Business Name

Reader responses to the question: Do I Need an Attorney for Business Startup?

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