Choosing the perfect name for your limited liability company (LLC) is crucial for your business’s brand, marketing, and most importantly, how it reflects your greater mission and vision.
But, what happens if another LLC has already taken the name you had in mind— can two LLCs have the same name?
Let’s explore the legal implications of business names and what you need to know as a small business owner to make sure you’re following the rules of the game and the vision for your business!
Understanding Legal Names
When you form an LLC, you’ll need to register your business name with your state’s Secretary of State office. Once your name is approved, it’s reserved for your use, but only within your state. That means as long as you don’t share the same name as another business entity in your state, you’re more than welcome to use your business name legally!
However, this doesn’t mean that the name is unique across the country; that’s where trademarks come in. It’s possible for another LLC in a different state to have the same name as yours. In fact, there are many instances where multiple LLCs share the same name but are in different states, and this is totally legal!
If you’re set on a particular name that’s already taken in your state, you may still be able to use it. You can register your LLC with a slightly different name, as long as it’s not identical or too similar to the other LLC’s name.
For example, if Jenn’s Interior Design LLC is already taken in your state, you can try something like Jenn’s Interior Design Studio or Interior Design by Jenn.
What Are DBA Names?
Another option for using a name that’s already taken is to file a “doing business as,” or DBA name.
A DBA name is a name that your business operates under and is different from your legal name, allowing you to use a different name for marketing and branding purposes without having to legally change your business name.
So, if you really wanted to use Jenn’s Interior Design LLC, but had to choose Interior Design by Jenn LLC, you can still use the former by filing a DBA through your state.
What Are Trademarks
When understanding legal names, it’s also important that we understand trademarks. Just because you’re able to register a business name in your state doesn’t mean that you can use it without any legal consequences.
If another business has trademarked the name, you could be infringing on its trademark by using the same name. Trademarks are legal protections for intellectual property like business names, logos, and slogans. If you use a trademarked name without permission, you could face legal action. So while, as we mentioned, it’s possible for two LLCs to share the same name, it’s important to understand the legal implications of doing so if a business has trademarked that name.
By understanding the options available to you, like registering a slightly different name, using a DBA name, or avoiding trademarked names, you can choose a unique and memorable name for your business that’s also totally legally sound!
3 Factors to Consider When Using a Name Also Claimed in Another State
If you do choose to use a name that’s claimed in another state, it’s important to understand the implications of doing so, especially if you’re not using a DBA with it.
Using a name that’s already claimed by another business can create competition for business assets. Think of domain names and social media handles that might already be captured by the previous company, making it a little more challenging for you to stand out from online marketing and branding efforts.
Using a name that’s already claimed by another business can also confuse customers. If they search for a business online and find two different businesses with the same name, they could be unsure of which one to choose. A court hearing occurred between “YOU FIT” and “FIT U,” as customers on Yelp shared their confusion about the two names.
Limits Future Growth
Using a name that’s already claimed by another business can limit future growth opportunities, like if a business wants to expand into new markets or offer new products or services. Having the same name as another business in those markets can make it difficult to establish a unique identity, and equally, if the other business has negative publicity or a poor reputation, it can certainly impact the growth potential of the business that shares the same name even if they haven’t done anything wrong.
4 Ways to Protect Your Business Name
How can you avoid this? Protect your business name by preventing others from using it. Here are four ways to do so:
Conduct Thorough Business Name Research
Before settling on a business name, conduct thorough business name research. This means searching your state’s Secretary of State database, conducting a trademark search to ensure that no one else is using the same name, and searching for the name online and in social media to ensure the domain and social media handles are available and wouldn’t confuse potential future customers.
Register Your Business Name
Once you’ve chosen a business name, register it with your state’s Secretary of State office to reserve your name and prevent other businesses from using it within your state. Depending on your state’s requirements, you may also need to file additional paperwork or pay a fee.
Get the Domain Name and Social Media Handles
Now, grab those domain names and social media handles associated with your name. This prevents other businesses from using your name or creating confusion among customers. You can register your domain name and social media handles through a domain registrar or social media platform.
Apply for a Trademark
If you want to prevent others from using your business name across the country, it’s important to apply for a trademark. A trademark is a national, legal protection for your business name, logo, or slogan that prevents others from using the same name or creating confusion among customers. You can do this through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Choose and Own Your Business Name with Confidence
With so many businesses out there, and so many decisions when you’re starting your business, it can be a bit overwhelming to find something that’s unique and memorable while getting your business logistics up and running.
doola’s business formation services match you with a business professional who can help you check the name of your business and take on the entire business formation process for you, ensuring the legalities, paperwork, and forms are all in order.
How do you know if your brand name is taken?
Search your state’s Secretary of State database and conduct a trademark search to see if the name is already taken.
How do you come up with a unique LLC name?
Consider using a unique word, combining words, or using a unique spelling of a word while ensuring that it’s still simple and easy to remember.
Can you use a shortened version of your business name?
Yes, as long as it’s not too similar to another business’s name and it’s not trademarked. You can also file for a DBA so you can go by a different legal entity name.
Can you name your LLC after yourself?
How much does it cost to register a business name?
The cost of registering a business name varies by state but ranges from around $50 to around $300.