Choosing the right name for your business is very important. Not only do you want to choose one that represents your company and its personality, but you want one that people will remember. The last thing you want is to spend a lot of time and resources coming up with the right name for your business only to find out that it’s already in use.
Before you start finalizing names for your business, it’s a good idea to see what names are already taken. In Texas, all businesses that are registered and doing business in the state must be listed with the Texas secretary of state's office. In fact, this office handles all business-related matters, including reserving business names. You can even do a Texas corporation search with the secretary of state to see if a name you’d like to use is already in use or if it’s available for your company.
The process for doing a Texas business name search or registering a business name is relatively straightforward. All you need is a computer or phone and access to some important information.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
To find out if a business name is already registered in Texas, contact the Texas secretary of state. You can contact the office online or by phone, email or fax.
Texas Business Name Search
Under Texas state law, the name of your business must be distinct from another business that is registered in the state or that has a business name reserved in the state. The good news is that you can easily do a search on a business name in Texas to find out if it’s registered or reserved in the state. Search fees range from free to $5.00 per search depending on the method you choose for a Texas business name search. Be sure to do a Texas business name search before making a permanent selection for the name of your business. Failure to do so can be very costly to your business.
If you want to do a Texas LLC name search for free, you can call the Texas secretary of state office directly at (512) 463-5555 or email the office at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can simply ask if the name about which you are curious is registered in Texas.
You can also do a Texas LLC name search on the SOSDirect website at www.sos.state.tx.us/corp/sosda/index.shtml to see if a business name is registered in Texas. There is a $1.00 fee per search if you opt for this method. You will need to either create an SOSDirect account or log in as a temporary user to use the website.
Your last option is to fax or mail a request for a Texas LLC name search to the Texas secretary of state office. The mailing address is: Corporations Section – Secretary of State, P.O. Box 13697, Austin, Texas, 78711-3697. The fax number is (512) 463-5709. There is a $5.00 fee per search when you use these methods. Provide a credit card number on your fax for the fee or enclose a money order with your mailed request for a Texas corporation name search.
Registering a Business Name in Texas
If you have done a sufficient Texas corporation name search and are ready to file your chosen business name in the state, you must do so with the Texas secretary of state. You can choose to reserve or register a business name in Texas.
To reserve a business name for future use, you can file a name reservation online through SOSDirect. Doing so will hold the name of your business for your use for four months, giving you time to establish your corporation and fill out the required paperwork to officially register your business. You may want to reserve your business name to ensure that no other business claims it or a name that sounds similar to it. You can renew your name reservation as many times as you need before officially registering it.
Registering a business name in Texas means that you have a right to that name during the period for which the name is registered. Name registrations are valid for one year and can be renewed. Registering a business name also means that another business doing a Texas corporation search cannot use a name that is similar to yours.
Keep in mind that in order to do business in the state of Texas, registering a business name is not enough. You’ll still need to submit an application for registration to do business in the state.
Before registering your business name, you must first determine the type of entity for your business. You can register as a sole proprietor, a limited liability corporation or a limited liability partnership. Each has certain tax implications, liabilities and benefits that you should consider and discuss with a tax professional before making a decision. The fees to register each type of business with the Texas secretary of state vary.
You can register your business in Texas either in person or online via the SOSDirect portal. To register, you must have handy the type of entity of your business, the full legal name of your business and required owner information. You must also pay all associated fees at the time of registration.
If your company chooses to do business under an assumed name, also known as a DBA, it must file an assumed name certificate in each county where it has a business location. This is in addition to registering the official business name with the Texas secretary of state. Depending on the county, an assumed name filing is valid for up to 10 years with the option to extend.
Once you register and establish your company, you must follow the state and legal requirements for maintaining your company status. These vary depending on your business's type of entity.
Transferring or Withdrawing Your Business Name
In Texas, you can transfer or withdraw your reserved or registered business name if you no longer need it. If you choose to transfer your business name to another person, you must fill out the required paperwork. You may choose to do this if another person purchases or invests in your company, if another person makes a case for needing it or if you are no longer moving forward with that company name.
In that case, or if your business closes, you may also opt to withdraw your reservation or registration of a company name. You can withdraw a business name by submitting the required paperwork before the expiration of either the reservation or registration period. Once you do this, you will no longer have a right to that business name, and another entity can register to use it.
Consenting to Use of a Similar Business Name
Texas business code does allow for similar business names to be used if the existing business consents. A proposed business name that is similar to an already-registered or reserved business name can be used by another business if the existing business provides notarized consent. The existing business is never required to consent to the use of a similar business name but can choose to do so at its discretion.
If it does, the proposed business name cannot be identical or deceptively similar to an existing name so as to create consumer confusion, even if the existing business consents. If the proposed business name would violate a trademark or copyright, consent is void. Consent for the use of a similar business name cannot be withdrawn once it is approved and filed with the Texas secretary of state.
Leslie Bloom has worked in upper-level management positions in both publishing and the mental health field. In addition to years of business and management experience, she has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of online and print publications, including Metro Magazine. She holds degrees in both journalism and law.