How to Register a Business Name (and Avoid Legal Issues)

What’s in a name? Well, when it comes to a business name, it’s more than you might think. 

Even the most experienced entrepreneurs struggle with this initial step of the business building process. Choosing a name that will be forever associated with your company comes with immense pressure. 

If you pick the wrong name, your business may never connect with potential customers. Even worse, a poorly-chosen name could land you in a whirlwind of legal trouble. In contrast, the right name can help your business become a memorable, trustworthy, and recognizable leader in your industry. 

Whatever business name you choose, it will influence the success or failure of your company. 

If you’ve scoured the internet for a clear and concise guide that explains how to register a business name, you’ve finally found it. 

Read on to learn about: 

  • The do’s and don’ts of choosing a business name
  • Helpful tools you can use to find a great business name 
  • How to check a business name’s availability 
  • How to register a business name 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Choosing a Business Name 

It’s a good idea to brainstorm a bunch of business name ideas if you’re just starting the process. 

Let’s explore some of the things you should and shouldn’t do when you’re coming up with potential names. 

Do: Find a Unique Business Name

With so many businesses registered already, there’s a good chance your first ideas are already taken. Stay patient and keep searching until you find something one-of-a-kind. It’ll pay off. 

Do: Think Outside of the Box 

Get creative with your business’s name. It should reflect the personality and brand you want to develop for your company. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain. 

Do: Choose a Business Name That’s Easy to Pronounce

Find a name that’s clear, simple, and easy on the ears. These qualities will make your business name easier to remember, which is critical to bringing in customers. 

Don’t: Limit the Growth of Your Company

Avoid any mention of locations or specific products. This can prevent conflicts down the road if your business grows beyond its original location or you want to expand into different areas. 

Don’t: Choose a Random Name

Just because a word sounds good, doesn’t mean it’s fitting for your business. Go with a name that accurately communicates what you offer to potential customers. 

Don’t: Go with the First Business Name You Think Of 

Even if you’re 100% sure your first idea is perfect, spend a few more days mulling it over, researching, and coming up with additional ideas. Naming your business isn’t something you should rush into. 

Use These Business Name Checker Tools To Find a Great Name 

Before you worry about how to register a business name, you need to have a name worth registering. If you’re lucky, the right business name will hit you like a lightning bolt of inspiration — but plenty of people experience writer’s block. 

Here are some excellent tools to help you get those creative juices flowing: 

Namelix

Namelix is a free tool that can help you find the best business name for building your brand. You can search a few keywords associated with your company and then select the length you’d like your name to be. 

Let’s say your company sells luxury menswear. Here are the suggested names if your keywords are “men’s luxury clothing”: 

Namelix offers lots of suggestions, and can also be a great jumping-off point when you’re coming up with names. But, if you’re having trouble finding something that resonates, it may be a good idea to go with an old-school tool that will help you trade out some of your keywords. 

Thesaurus.com

Even before we had online business name generation tools, people still had to come up with clever business names. A thesaurus used to be the business-naming entrepreneur’s best friend. 

Here’s the good news:

The printed thesaurus of yesteryear has an easily-searchable online equivalent — Thesaurus.com

Find synonyms for more common words associated with your business and use them to create a company name that is unique, but still relevant. 

Let’s say you want to see alternatives for the word “luxury.” 

You’ll get with these results: 

Now you have dozens of words that could work in your business name. “Majestic Menswear” has a nice ring to it. 

A thesaurus can help you create a company name that accurately describes your business, but is less generic and more memorable.  

Bluehost Domain Name Generator

Once you have a few business names in mind, you need to consider how they will work as a domain name. Modern businesses need a website, so before you settle on a company name, use our domain name generator to make sure a good domain name is available. 

Say you like “Majestic Menswear” as a business name. However, when you search “majesticmenswear.com,” you find out that particular domain is unavailable. 

If you really want to go with “Majestic Menswear” our domain name generator will offer you alternative options with a different top-level domain (TLD) — you can just switch out .com for .org, .net, or .co. 

We also give you suggestions that use synonyms or an extra word. You might find a domain name on our list that you like even better for your business name. 

Wordoid

Sometimes real words don’t cut it — you need a completely made-up name to stand out. 

Wordoid is an intelligent naming tool that can help you come up with an entirely unique name. If you choose one of their “wordoids” you’ll have a business name that is highly catchy, easy to remember, and original enough to avoid potential legal problems. 

Speaking of which…

How to Check the Availability and Legality of Your Business Name 

It is possible to choose a name with an available website domain you like, and still end up with something unoriginal or legally problematic. Before you get too invested in a business name, conduct a quick Google search to see if it pops up. 

This is the time to start thinking about search engine optimization (SEO). If you’ve chosen a name that’s too generic, a lot of results will come up. You want your business name to be something that can rise above similar search results when your potential customers are looking for you. 

If you don’t find any matches for your business name, you’ve chosen something sufficiently unique. 

Before you go through any legally-intensive steps in registering your business name, make sure a good-quality domain name and social media handles are available. You can use Bluehost’s tool to search and then purchase your domain, and a tool like NameCheck can tell you if your business name is available on each social media platform. 

Now let’s move on to the first legal part of how to register a business name. 

First, you need to decide if you’ll register your business as a limited partnership (LP) or a limited liability corporation (LLC). There are other types of business legal entities, but these are among the most common. Then, run your company name through your state’s database to make sure the name isn’t already in use. 

There are some instances when you can use a name that’s already taken — for example, if your industry differs vastly — but you should always consult a professional before taking that risk. 

The final step to clear yourself of any legal trouble when choosing a business name is to check the federal trademark database. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) keeps track of all names already trademarked and currently in the process. It’s a free service that gives you a national level of comparison for increased accuracy. 

How to Register a Business Name for Legal Protection 

If your business name survives the gauntlet of legal scrutiny, it’s time to officially claim it as your own. You are granted some legal protection without formally registering your name. However, if somebody eyeballing similar company names starts making legal moves before you, you’ll be forced to go back to square one. 

It’s safer to claim legal ownership of your business name by following these steps. 

1. Register Your Business Name

Start by registering your business name at the state level. Laws regarding business names and related protections vary across regions, so you’ll need to check your state’s requirements. 

Simply Google “how to register a business name in [your state],” and one of the first few results should help you understand state specifics.

2. Choose a Name for Doing Business As 

Your doing business as (DBA) name is the common name people use to refer to your business. While it’s not always required by law, choosing a DBA name can help you avoid legal troubles. Since DBA names are often registered at the state level, you can just Google “registering a doing business as name in [your state]” to find the most relevant resources. 

3. Claim Domains and Social Media Accounts

If you want a complete answer to how to register a business name, we can’t forget to mention domains and social media. Consider purchasing more than one version of your domain name, and set up usernames for your business on all social media platforms. 

An online presence that uses your business name won’t grant you any legal protection. However, it certainly looks more professional and makes it easier for people to find your company when searching online.

4. Register Your Business Name as a Trademark

If you’re wondering how to register a business name on the federal level, head back over to the USPTO website. Registering your business name as a trademark can help you avoid potential clashes with new companies down the road. 

Hopefully, you now have a complete answer to the question of how to register a business name. 

Deciding on a business name is the launch point for any new company. It’s a tangible symbol of your business’s transition from mental incubation to the real-world. 

To find the best name while avoiding any legal issues, you’ll need to:  

  1. Find something creative yet relevant. 
  2. Use helpful tools to brainstorm potential names. 
  3. Check availability. 
  4. Claim the name for yourself. 

Ready to take your new business online? Bluehost is here to help. See what Bluehost’s website hosting plans offer today.

Machielle Thomas
Machielle Thomas | Content Manager
Machielle Thomas writes and curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.

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