In Mississippi, the secretary of state oversees the formation of businesses. When it comes to names, the state doesn't require registration; this is left up to the owner's discretion. However, if the business is required to submit formation documents to the secretary of state to operate, its name cannot be the same or similar to those of other registered businesses.
Fictitious Business Name
If you don't operate your business under your legal name, it likely falls under the category of "fictitious name" in Mississippi. Your legal name is what appears on official legal and government documents, such as your birth certificate, marriage certificate or driver's license. If your legal name is John Smith, for instance, your business might be called John Smith's Stunt Doubles and the name would not be a fictitious name under Mississippi law. On the other hand, if you named your business Stunts and More, this name would be.
Registration Not Required
Unlike other states, Mississippi does not require business owners to register fictitious names. Instead, registration is voluntary. Although registration is not required, it is still a good idea to do so. Your registration makes it possible for the public to known who it is doing business. It also lets other businesses know if their chosen business name is being used elsewhere in the state, or a name very similar. This is helpful, especially when you're in the beginning stages of starting a business. If you find out your business name is already in use, you can choose another one so as not to confuse the public and to prevent the dilution of your brand. For instance, if there's already a business known as John Smith's Stunt Doubles in the state and it has a bad reputation, the last thing you want to do is to start a business with the same or similar sounding name and lose potential customers before you even get started.
Obtain a Fictitious Business Name form from the secretary of state's office. The secretary of state has several offices throughout the state and provides the contact information for each on its website. The FBN form requests such information as your legal name, fictitious business name, business location and business description. If your business is a corporation or limited liability company, you must also include its Mississippi business identification number. Submit the form, along with filing fee, to the secretary of state.
After you register your fictitious business name, it remains valid for five years. To keep it active after this time, you must renew it and can do so as often as you like. There is no limit. Although you are putting the public and other businesses on notice as to your business name when you submit your registration, it does not prevent other Mississippi businesses from using the same name.
If you form a corporation or LLC, you must file formation documents with the secretary of state's office. The name you provide is treated as your business's legal name and it cannot be similar to the legal name of other businesses of this type in the state. Check to see if your business's legal name is available by doing a name search on the secretary of state's website.
Based on the West Coast, Mary Jane Freeman has been writing professionally since 1994, specializing in the topics of business and law. Freeman's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including LegalZoom, Essence, Reuters and Chicago Sun-Times. Freeman holds a Master of Science in public policy and management and Juris Doctor. Freeman is self-employed and works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.