One of the most exciting initial tasks to tackle when starting a business is brainstorming names for your company. It’s also one of the most critical to-dos; your company’s name will be the foundation of your brand, so you need to consider it carefully.

As you embark upon the process of deciding what you will call your company, there are some business name restrictions you should be aware of. Every state has its own set of rules regarding what is and is not allowed in business names.

Most states will not allow a business to:

  • Include business entity identifiers such as “Incorporated,” “Corporation,” “Inc.,” “Limited Liability Company,” or “LLC” as part of the name if the business is not incorporated or an LLC. Similarly, a business that is incorporated or an LLC must include “Corporation,” “Incorporated,” “Limited,” or an abbreviation (e.g., Inc., LLC) as part of its name.
  • Use a name that implies it is a governmental unit (such as a village, city, or borough) when it is not.
  • Use a word that implies a company is a government entity (e.g., Federal, United States, etc.).
  • Use a business name that misleads the public to believe the company provides something it does not.
  • Include a word that implies professional licensing (such as “Engineer,” “Attorney,” or “CPA”) if the business does not have the appropriate license.
  • Use words like “bank,” “trust,” or “insurance,” unless legally authorized to operate as such by the appropriate government agency.
  • Use a name that is deceptively similar to another business name on record.
  • Use derivatives or other forms of prohibited words (for example, adding “ing” to the end of a prohibited word or using its plural form, etc.)

The table below shares some information about each state’s business name restrictions. Although this list is not all-inclusive, I hope that it will give business owners a better idea of what words to be wary of when considering using them as part of a company name.

State-By-State Business Name Restrictions

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Tips To Help Ensure You Don’t Break the Rules

  • Check with the Secretary of State’s office about the rules and restrictions for business names – What I’ve provided above is just a sampling of the restrictions in each state. Entrepreneurs can confirm that the business names they would like to use won’t break the rules by visiting the state government’s website and contacting the appropriate state department for more information.
  • Conduct a corporate name search – Even if the desired name is free of any prohibited words and otherwise meets all the requirements, a business will likely not be able to use it if another company selling similar products or services is already using the name. Doing a name search using CorpNet’s free Corporate Name Search tool can help identify if the name is available in the state.
  • Conduct a trademark search – Companies that intend to do business in more than one state should consider doing a trademark search. If a business name has been trademarked, it is protected in all 50 United States, which prevents other businesses with similar purposes from using the name in any state.
  • Enlist the expertise of an attorney to ensure you’ve covered all the bases – Everything I have shared here is for general informational purposes. For legal guidance about naming a business, entrepreneurs should seek the expertise of an attorney or another qualified professional.

Next Steps

After you’ve done your research and have landed on a distinguishable business name that meets your state’s requirements, remember that my team at CorpNet is here to help you with your name reservation and business registration paperwork. Contact us today—no matter where you plan to operate your company in the U.S.—to assist you with preparing your forms and filing them quickly and accurately.