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How do companies choose a proper business name?

Michigan parents understand how difficult it can be to choose a name for a child. In some respects, there can be similar difficulties that are faced by new business owners who are seeking to choose a name for their start-up businesses.

A lot goes into a name, as it forms a major part of a business' identity. If the right name is not chosen, it can not only reflect poorly on the business, but lead to legal disputes as well.

For instance, last week, this blog discussed a legal complaint asserted against a newer business by an established company. The claim alleged that the new business was infringing on copyright protections and capitalizing on the established business's reputation.

Generally, a new business must select a name that is not already in use by another business. To make this happen, new businesses often conduct an extensive search, including a search of the US Patent and Trademark Office, to discover whether another company is already using the name that the new company desires to use. It is vital that businesses comply with intellectual property laws when choosing and registering a name.

Once a name is chosen, it is typically registered at the time the business structure is formed. While sole proprietorships do not typically need to register the name of the owner, they must file a DBA if they assume a different name. Corporations typically register their names when they file their Articles of Incorporation, while LLCs register their names when filing their Articles of Organization.

Businesses might also want to pursue further protections for their name, as registration with the State of Michigan does not grant the company absolute rights or ownership of the name. Ultimately, choosing a business name is just one aspect of proper business planning, but it is a step that should not be ignored or taken lightly.

Source:, "Guide to Starting and Operating a Small Business," accessed on Jan. 16, 2016

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