How to Register Business Name

Find step by step process to register business names in each state.

How to Reserve Your Business Name

It can take a while to come up with the perfect name for your business. Sure, there are naming laws that your state mandates. But the name itself has to be perfect for your business.

It’s like the name of a person, in a way. You have preconceived notions about a person when you hear that the name they’re using. You hear a name like Maria, and you immediately think about a Hispanic woman. You also rarely people these days bearing the name Adolf, which is understandable.

It’s the same for a business as well. Some businesses become more successful with just a single name change. The Subway fast-food name was the third name for the brand, for example. Their fast-food business didn’t really take off when they were using names like “Pete’s Super Submarines” and “Doctor’s Associates Inc.”

Nike started out as “Blue Ribbon Sports”. Google was created with the name “BackRub”. Even Pepsi Cola was first known as “Brad’s Drink”. It’s easy to think that these companies may not have been as successful if they continued with their original names.

So, a name is crucial. But it has to be original. That’s why you have to first check that the name you decided on isn’t already in use in your state. If you check that it’s not, then it’s a break for you.

But a blessing can turn into a nightmare if you dilly-dally with your corporation formation. Maybe you’re having trouble find partners for your corporation. Perhaps you and your partners aren’t quite in agreement regarding the operational SOPs. Heck, it may just be the lack of money to start with.

Regardless of the reason, it’s entirely possible that another company may register for that exact brand name ahead of you. To prevent this from happening, you can always just reserve the name while you try to get your LLC or corporation formed.

What is Company Name Reservation?

Before we continue with this guide, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page regarding what it means to reserve a company name. This does not mean that you’ve officially formed your corporation (or LLC). This does not mean that you’ve registered the name for your company.

Instead, the state government simply reserves the name for you while you continue your efforts to form your company. During the effective reservation time, the name is part of the brand name database your state maintains. When other potential companies search through the state company name database, they’ll find that it’s already in use and they can’t use this for their own company name.

The reserved brand name will be part of that database only for the duration of the reservation. If you don’t renew your reservation, then the name disappears from the database and other potential companies can use the name.

When does the name become yours? That happens when you officially form your LLC or corporation. Then the brand name becomes part of the state database, and other businesses can’t use your brand name while your business is running. The brand name only disappears from the database when your company is dissolved.

Benefits of Brand Name Reservation

There are advantages that comes when you reserve the brand name for your business. Perhaps the main advantage is that you have some time to spare while you form your corporation. If there are delays to that corporation formation, then another company can’t just swoop in while you’re taking your time with forming the corporation. During the effective reservation period, no other business can use that brand name.

This is a big deal, especially when you’ve hit upon that “perfect” brand name for your business. It may be so perfect that other people who are starting similar businesses may also stumble upon it. By reserving the name, you get to use it first.

You can then take your time forming your corporation, without hurrying matters too much. You won’t have to rush the formation of the corporation, without getting all the operational details straight.

The other advantage is that, at least in the state of Alabama, it’s an absolute requirement. In that state, you can’t form an LLC or a corporation without reserving the name first. Alabama is the only state to require this, however.

Drawbacks to Company Name Reservation

A lot of experts actually recommend that you don’t even bother with the name reservation. You simply just form the company as quickly as you can, then the name becomes yours. It’s an automatic part of the process.

Unless you’re in Alabama, then it’s not really necessary at all. It’s not even all that practical. You expend time and effort into doing something that you don’t really have to. Imagine if you’re able to reserve the name and then a week later, you’re able to form the company. It seems like such a waste.

In addition, you’re no really permanently reserving the company name for your sole use. There’s an effective period for the reservation, and you’ll have to renew the reservation to maintain it.

There’s a fee for this as well. So, when you renew the reservation, you have to pay again. In some states, this can be rather expensive, with fees of $100 or even more.

Keep in mind that this reservation is only effective for your state as well. It’s not like you’re getting trademark protection for your brand, which keeps other companies in the entire US from using the brand name. If you want to reserve the name for your company throughout the country, then you’d have to go through the process 50 times (49 states plus D.C.). Obviously, that’s not quite practical.

How Much Will It Cost You?

It really depends on where you’re forming the corporation.

  1. Alabama: $10

  2. Alaska: $25

  3. Arizona: $45

  4. Arkansas: $25

  5. California: $14

  6. Colorado: $25

  7. Connecticut: $110

  8. Delaware: $75

  9. District of Columbia: $85

  10. Florida: This state does not offer business name reservations

  11. Georgia: $25

  12. Hawaii: $33.50

  13. Idaho: $40

  14. Illinois: $25

  15. Indiana: $11.22

  16. Iowa: $10

  17. Kansas: $30

  18. Kentucky: $15

  19. Louisiana: $55

  20. Maine: $70

  21. Maryland: $45

  22. Massachusetts: $30

  23. Michigan: $10

  24. Minnesota: $45

  25. Mississippi: $25

  26. Missouri: $25

  27. Montana: $30

  28. Nebraska: $30

  29. Nevada: $75

  30. New Hampshire: $15

  31. New Jersey: $100

  32. New Mexico: $25

  33. New York: $45

  34. North Carolina: $130

  35. North Dakota: $10

  36. Ohio: $139

  37. Oklahoma: $10

  38. Oregon: $100

  39. Pennsylvania: $140

  40. Rhode Island: $50

  41. South Carolina: $10

  42. South Dakota: $75

  43. Tennessee: $20

  44. Texas: $65

  45. Utah: $22

  46. Vermont: $20

  47. Virginia: $20

  48. Washington: $80

  49. West Virginia: $15

  50. Wisconsin: $40

  51. Wyoming: $50

How Long Will the Reservation Process Take?

It depends on the state. Most of the time, however, it’s a straightforward procedure that only takes maybe a couple of business days.

How Long Will the Reservation Last?

Again, it depends on the state. Some states only hold the name for you for 30 days, and then you’d have to renew the reservation. Other states can keep that name in reserve for an entire year, during which you can figure out how you can form your own company.

For most states, though, the reservation period is 120 days.

Using a Professional Service

Experts generally recommend that you hire a formation service to help you form your LLC or business. This is to optimize the whole procedure and minimize potential mistakes. You can do the same with the company name reservation, though very few online formation services offer this service.

You can start with BizFilings, which perhaps offers the most affordable name reservation service. It only costs $35. It’s a reputable company that has served more than half a million customers, so they know what they’re doing.

Another option is MyCorporation. They’re more expensive at $49, but they do good work based on the number of rave reviews this online formation service has received over the years.

Keep in mind that most formation services will also offer a name availability search to make sure your company name is not yet in use, either.

DIY Name Reservation

You can always just reserve the name yourself, if you want.

  1. First of all, start with a good company name that’s unique (which is a legal requirement). That means you need to check your state’s secretary of state website for their naming database, to confirm that the name you’ve chosen isn’t in use just yet.

  2. Once you’ve confirmed the availability of the name, go to the name reservation section of the website and fill out the name reservation form. Then you can either submit the form online, or download the form and then mail it later on.

  3. Pay the fee, either through online with your credit card or through the mail.

Should You Reserve the Company Name?

In most cases, the answer is a firm no. This is, of course, unless you’re in Alabama where it’s a requirement. Anywhere else, we recommend that you don’t even bother.

That’s because you can just use the time reserving the name to just go ahead and form the company instead. That way, you save yourself the effort, and you won’t have to pay a fee for this extra (and unnecessary step).

Of course, it’s a different matter when you see certain complications when forming the company. Perhaps you’re forming an LLC or a corporation with several other co-owners, and you all can’t quite agree with the details on how to run the company.

If that’s the case, if you all at least agree on the name, then you can go ahead and reserve the name while you people iron out the operational details. At least you’ll have about 4 months to figure things out, so there’s no absolute need to hurry. You can make sure everyone agrees on the company rules first.

Don’t reserve the name if you’re not running a formal business, however. Only the names of formal business are offered the protection of a unique company name. If you’re running a casual general proprietorship, then don’t even bother to reserve the name.

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