A curly-haired woman in a blue zip-up shirt is typing on a laptop at a table in a large cafe. The cafe behind her is empty, except for two people, one standing and one sitting, in the far background. On the table next to the woman's laptop is a three-ring binder filled with papers and a teacup on a saucer. A small decorative potted plant sits behind the laptop.
In addition to your business name, you can register a DBA or "doing business as" name, to signify that you're doing business under a name different from the legal business name. — Getty Images/sturti

Your business name is one of your most important assets, and once you’ve found the right one, you want to protect it by registering it with the state. Here are six steps you’ll take to register your business name.

[Read more: ​​A Practical Guide to Funding Your Small Business with Business Loans and Beyond]

Make sure your business name is available

Before you attempt to register your business name, you want to perform your due diligence and ensure it’s available. There are a few different ways you can check to ensure no one else has reserved that name.

The easiest way is to do a quick domain search to see if it’s available. You can check GoDaddy to see if the domain name is available to purchase. It’s also a good idea to do a Google search to see if you come across other businesses with that name.

Next, you can do a business name search in your state. Assuming all these come back clear, you can do a federal trademark search to see whether someone else has trademarked that name.

Register your business with the state

Now you’re going to choose your business structure and register your business with the state. For instance, you could set up an LLC, a partnership, or a corporation.

The state you live in and the type of entity you’re forming will dictate the paperwork needed to get started. Your best bet is to check your Secretary of State’s website to see what you need to do.

[Read more: The Most Common Business Entities for Startups]

Apply for your EIN

Once you’ve registered your business with the state, you need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). An EIN is a separate tax number for your business, and you can apply on the IRS’s website.

It’s a good idea to take the extra step and apply for a federal trademark.

You’ll start the application by selecting your business entity. For instance, if you choose an LLC, you’ll provide the following information about your business:

  • Legal business name.
  • Number of members.
  • The state where you're incorporated.
  • Managing member information.
  • The reason you’re applying for an EIN.
  • The date your entity began.

Secure your domain name

Now that your business is legally set up, you’ll want to secure your online domain name. If the business name is available but the domain is taken, you have a few different options available.

One thing you could do is choose another variation of your business name. For instance, Peloton’s business name is Peloton Interactive, LLC. But the domain name is onepeloton.com.

If you use GoDaddy, you can also request that a domain broker contact the owner of your desired domain name and negotiate a deal for you to buy it. However, there is a fee for this service, and there’s no guarantee GoDaddy will make contact with the owner.

Register a DBA

Under certain circumstances, you may want to set up a DBA (“doing business as”) registration. Companies set up a DBA when the name they’re doing business as is different from the legal business name.

You’ll fill out the form to apply for a DBA in the state your business is located in. And multiple companies can use the same DBA in a single state, so you have more leeway as to the name you choose.

[Read more: Doing Business As: What It Means to Register a DBA]

Considering applying for a trademark

It’s a good idea to take the extra step and apply for a federal trademark. A trademark protects your business name at the national level, not just the state level. If you have a trademark, this prevents other companies from using your business name.

If someone does use your business’s name, they’ll be subject to trademark infringement laws. You can apply online at the United States Patent and Trademark Office to get started.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Follow us on Instagram for more expert tips & business owners’ stories.

To stay on top of all the news impacting your small business, go here for all of our latest small business news and updates.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

Make smart decisions. Make your mark.

Access all your business apps in one place with COmpass, our free single sign-on platform for small business. View all your apps and data in one dashboard, so you can make informed decisions and grow your business.

Subscribe Now

Brought to you by SquareStack

Published August 10, 2022