Chronology: Choosing a Business Name

1. Choose a name or, preferably, a list of names that you would like to use.

* Consider how the name can be used as an Internet address, and check to see if the name or a variation thereof is available as a domain name.

* Try the name(s) out on family members and close friends to get their reactions.

* Live with your ideas for a while to see how you feel about them over time.

2. Check to see whether your ideas are already on the list of fictitious or assumed business names on record with your county clerk or Secretary of State.

3. Determine whether your state requires state or local registration of assumed business names for unincorporated businesses and, if so, register your name with the requisite local authorities.

4. If you are going to incorporate your business, check with the Secretary of State’s office in your state’s capital city to see whether your idea is the same as or confusingly similar to an existing corporate name in your state.

5. Even if you are not incorporating, you will need to decide whether you should register for trademark protection on the state level.

* If you do opt for state registration, do a trademark search, checking all state trademark registers, trademark directories, yellow pages directories, the Internet, and other resources for the same or confusingly similar marks in the states in which you plan to register, or ask your attorney to do this search for you.

* File an application with the state office that handles trademarks (often the Secretary of State’s office), or have your attorney file it on your behalf.

6. Decide whether to register your name on the federal level, and then perform all of the above searches, or have your attorney do the same, on a national scale.

* If you opt for federal registration, file an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to reserve your business name for federal registration.

7. Once all searches are complete and your decision is final, register your Internet domain name.

8. Have your business cards, stationery, advertising, and signs printed or made.

9. Start your business!