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Protecting a Business Name
A business name is a form of intellectual property. The rights in a business name are recognized under state and federal law. You can register your name at the state level or protect your business name via trademark rights under state and federal law.
Register Business With the State
You will need to make sure that the business name you plan to use is not already being used by another business. You will need to conduct a search at the state and federal level.
At the state level, the first step is to go to your Secretary of State’s website and do a search for business names. (Note: Sole proprietors or partners conduct business under a trade name may file a “fictitious business name” at the local county office or courthouse). If the business name is not yet registered by another business, you can reserve it for a statutory period of time (usually 120 days). If you are ready to register your business, you can elect the business name and file your business organization documents at the same time.
The problem arises when the name is already in use by another business entity that is registered to do business within the state. If this is the case, the state will not allow you to register for that business name – or any name that is deceptively similar to another business’ name.
Note: Registering a business name within your state does not preserve the name for use in other states. (See Trademarking a Business Name)