You've made plans. You've chosen a name for your new business. You are all set to open up shop. You place your order to form your LLC or corporation and...you hit your first roadblock. The business name you selected is unavailable. What now?
The good news is that it may not be an issue. Let's take a look at how to select your business name and what you can do if the name you've selected is unavailable.
Selecting Your Business Name
On our order forms you'll find a box to enter the preferred name of your new entity, followed by a box for an alternate name. This is because occasionally the name you'd like to use for your entity is already in use. In Delaware, no two entities may have the same name.
When forming an entity with The Incorporators, if the preferred name you select is not available we will go ahead and use the alternate name you provided. If you want to be sure that you get the exact name you want, you may want to confirm the name availability prior to placing your order.
How to Check Name Availability
Ideally you want to find a name that is available as you're brainstorming business names, before you finalize any domain name purchases, social media handles, signs, or marketing materials.
To check the availability of a name for your LLC, corporation, partnership, or non-profit, you can use the Delaware Division of Corporations name availability search tool here.
Your Registered Entity Name vs. What Your Business Goes By
Even if the name you want is unavailable, it does not mean that you cannot use that name for your business.
It is common for businesses to go by one name publicly while registered with the state of Delaware under a different name. This is called a DBA (Doing Business As or Fictitious Name).
What is a DBA?
DBA's, also known as a Doing Business As or Fictitious Name Filings, are often filed by sole proprietorships or partnerships. Instead of being known by the name of the individual or partners, a business may choose to go by a different name.
For instance, if I'm a sole proprietor of a small Etsy shop, I may file a DBA to name my shop The Example Etsy Shop but continue to operate as a sole proprietorship (though there are good reasons why many in this situation decide to form an LLC instead, learn more here).
The same can be true for businesses registered under a different LLC or corporation name. A great example of this is when a business owns a franchise. If you purchase a franchise, you won't be able to register your LLC as the name of the franchise. You might choose to form an LLC called "Delaware Franchise Family, LLC" and file a DBA as the name of the franchise.
Some companies or corporations choose to form their entity in Delaware and file a DBA in another state. This is subject to the state laws and may be more advantageous in some states than others.
Check for Trademarks
One thing to note, if an entity name is already in use and you'd still like to use it for your business, you may want to check for registered trademarks first. It would be disappointing and costly to begin doing business only to find that you're violating someone else's trademark and you have to change the name.
If the name you'd like to use comes up as a current live registered trademark, click the name and confirm what category of goods and services the trademark is being used for. Often the trademarked name may be in a category completely unrelated to the category that you may want to use the name for and therefore may not be in conflict with the registered trademark.
If you have questions or concerns about this, we recommend contacting your attorney.
Naming Your Business
Choosing what to name your business is an important step in the process of starting your business. If the name you chose is unavailable, it can be discouraging. We hope this has helped clarify what your options are if you run in to this issue.
If you have any questions about reserving your business name or forming a new entity, feel free to give us a call at 800-223-3928.