How to File a New Business Name

Starting a new business can be both exciting and stressful if you fail to properly prepare and take the necessary steps in order to bring it to life. To get started with the new venture, first decide what you will call your business. Once you determine the business or trade name, it must be filed either at the local courthouse, with the Secretary of State or the Governor's office, depending on the type of business structure and the state in which it will be located. Here's a guide on how to file a new business name.

Take time to consider what products and services your business will offer, who it will cater to and the overall impression you hope to leave with potential customers and clients. Use this information when trying to determine what to call your business. Choose a name that not only explains what is provided, but one that is also easy to remember and not too lengthy.

Decide what type of business structure you wish to manage. There are five basic business structures: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, S-corporation and limited liability corporation (LLC). As previously mentioned, depending on the structure you wish to establish and the location of the business, you will need to file with either the county clerk/local courthouse, Secretary of State or Governor's office. Check out the websites listed below for more information on business structures and specific filing guidelines by each individual state.

Conduct careful and thorough research to find out if your chosen business name is available for use. Unfortunately, there is not one central location in which to find this information. You must do a lot of digging in order to find the answer (check out the NOLO link below for more help).

Complete the application and register your proposed business name with the proper authority. Make sure that you fill out the application clearly and accurately, since this information will be entered into public records. Include all required fees and any supporting documentation when submitting your application.

Include your new business name on all professional stationery, cards, documentation, etc. once it has been approved and filed. Keep your personal and business records separate and well-organized in the event you need to refer to them in the future.


  • Sole proprietorships often use the owner's full legal name as the business name. The owner's social security number may be used in place of a tax identification number. If a fictitious or assumed name is being used, a fictitious owner affidavit (or "DBA/doing business as") affidavit must often be filed, along with the application, to inform the local government and the public that the business is being operated under a name that is different than the legal name. The affidavit also shows the name of the business owner. When checking on the availability of your chosen business name, it will save a lot of time to have several other names written down in the event that your chosen name is already in use by another company/owner. Choosing a business name is extremely important. You might strongly consider protecting this valuable asset under State and Federal law by getting a trademark or servicemark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), particularly if you're using a fictitious/assumed business name (see Resources below).


  • When deciding on a business name, do not use anything misleading or derogatory. This name is a professional representation and description of your business. It is also a direct reflection on you and your character.