Step 6 – Choose Your Business Name
You’ll want to choose a business name that reflects your brand identity and doesn’t clash with the types of goods and services you offer.
Once you settle on a name you like, you need to protect it. There are four different ways to register your business name. Each way of registering your name serves a different purpose, and some may be legally required depending on your business structure and location.
State Level Protection
Your entity name protects you at state level. Your entity name is how the state identifies your business and prevents anyone else in the state from operating under the same entity name.
Federal Level Protection
Trademarks protects you at a federal level. A trademark can protect the name of your business, goods, and services at a national level. Trademarks prevent others in the same (or similar) industry in the U.S. from using your trademarked names. Check your prospective business, product, and service names against the official trademark database, maintained by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Doing Business As (DBA)
Doing Business As doesn’t give legal protection, but might be legally required.
A DBA lets you conduct business under a different identity from your own personal name or your formal business entity name. As an added bonus, getting a DBA and federal tax ID number (EIN) allows you to open a business bank account. Multiple businesses can go by the same DBA in one state, so you’re less restricted in what you can choose.
There’s also more leeway in the clarity of business function. For example, a small business owner could use Springfield Electronic Accessories for their entity name but use TechBuddy for their DBA. Just remember that trademark infringement laws will still apply.
Domain name protects your business website address. If you want an online presence for your business, start by registering a domain name — also known as your website address, or URL. Once you register your domain name, no one else can use it for as long as you continue to own it. It’s a good way to protect your brand presence online.
If someone else has already registered the domain you wanted to use, that’s okay. Your domain name doesn’t actually need to be the same as your legal business name, trademark, or DBA. For example, Springfield Electronic Accessories could register the domain name techbuddyspringfield.com.
You’ll register your domain name through a registrar service. Consult a directory of accredited registrars to determine which ones are safe to use, and then pick one that offers you the best combination of price and customer service. You’ll need to renew your domain registration on a regular basis.