Choosing a Business Name
Naming your Sole Proprietorship or General Partnership
You may name your business after your own name without having to consult anyone. For example:
- Jane Smith Landscaping (not Jane’s Landscaping)
- Joe Doe Plumbing (not Doe Plumbing)
- John Jackson and Mike Mason Handyman Service (not John and Mike: The Handymen)
A name like Jane’s Landscaping, or a business name that has nothing to do with your name, is considered an “assumed name.” With an assumed name, you should conduct a search with your county Register of Deeds to find out whether someone is already doing business under the name you want.
Naming your Corporation, Limited Partnership (LP), or Limited Liability Company (LLC)
The NC Secretary of State’s Office reviews potential business names. The office may reject your chosen name if it is too similar to another business or if it uses prohibited words.
Follow these steps to choose a business name:
- Selecting a name;
- Determining if the name is available (see steps below).
- Deciding on a trademark or service mark (optional). Register for a state trademark and/or a Federal trademark.
If you have any questions over a corporate name, you should seek the advice of an attorney.
Is the Name You Want Available?
You are responsible for deciding which of these steps you should follow to determine whether the name you’ve chosen for your business entity is available or not.
Once you have chosen a name for your corporation, LP, LLC, or LLP, take some or all of the following steps to determine if the name is available for use:
- Check the Secretary of State's Office to determine if a proposed name is available as a corporate name.
- Check the appropriate guide for restrictions regarding such words as bank, trust, mutual, co-op, insurance, engineering, and architect:
- Check the Register of Deeds office in your county and surrounding counties for similar names listed as assumed names ("doing business as") or partnership names.
- Search online business directories, city directories, chamber of commerce lists, etc. for similarly named businesses in your area.
- Search the Trademark Registration of the NC Secretary of State’s Office to determine if the words which make up your proposed name have been registered as a trademark or service mark under North Carolina law. You may also conduct a trademark search through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for similar Federal trademark or service mark registrations.
- You may also hire an attorney to assist you with forming your business entity.
We strongly recommend that you make sure you have received all of your final incorporation papers from the NC Department of the Secretary of State before you print supplies such as checks, stationery, signs or any other printed items.