4 Legal Issues with Choosing a Business Name

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The name you choose for your business can have a significant impact on your marketing and branding strategy. This is evident by big brands like Facebook, Yahoo, MacDonalds, and CocaCola. They have a strong economic value. However, choosing a business name is not a straightforward thing. Many legal aspects must be met before it’s accepted. In other words, certain federal and state laws govern business names that you must follower duly before your business name is accepted. In this post, we’re going to talk about legal issues that come with naming any business:

a)   Know copyright laws before you choose a business name

Every business name out there has copyright protection. Copyright laws prevent people from stealing other people’s business ideas. For example, copyright laws restrict you from mimicking other business names. The process is simple. You acquire a business name, register it and copyright it. Any other person who uses the same name attracts criminal proceedings against them. That’s why you should avoid copying other people’s names when formulating your business name.

b)   Get acquainted with trademark laws before you choose a business name

A trademark is a recognizable symbol, sign, word or phrases that identify a product, service or business. You can be restricted to choose a business name because of trademark laws. Ideally, it’s an intellectual property of a particular business or brand. Infringement of the trademark of another company can attract legal proceedings against you. You may end up paying huge fines, your business may be closed or worse still, you could serve time. If you live in the United States and want to ensure the name you’ve chosen doesn’t infringe on trademark laws, go to a federal government site (www.uspto.gov) to perform a trademark search. The search will tell you whether the name infringes trademark laws or not.

c)    Choose a business and register it with your state

Choosing a business name is usually just the beginning. For the name to be valid, you must register it in the state you want to do business in. The rule regarding choosing a business name is pretty clear; the name should be unique. In other words, it should not be the same as another business name in the state that you want to do business in. For instance, if the state you want to do business in already has a registered business like ‘’Mark Fries,’’ the relevant authorities will not approve your business name for registration. You’ll be told to find another business name. Using a name without registering it can invite a lot of problems with the authorities.

d)   Desist from offensive terms when looking to choose a business name

All state and federal laws do not allow businesses or other organizations to use offensive terms in their names. For instance, you cannot use a name that includes swearing words. For instance, you cannot use a name that includes swearing words, words that are offensive to any religion, words that demean certain groups of people, or words that depict pornography. Such a name will be rejected in the first instance.

Businesses are also not allowed to use misleading or inappropriate words. For instance, a limited company is at liberty to use the word limited or just the letters Ltd as a component of its business name. Also, a public limited company is at liberty to use Plc as part of its business name. But if the businesses are not part of the body, they cannot use those initials.


Make sure you follow the legal requirements of naming your business outlined above to prevent problems with the authorities. It’s quite easy to determine these legal aspects these days. You don’t need to queue in some government office to determine this. Just go to government websites and check.