Texas is a great state in which to start a business. The state boasts one of the highest rates of new LLCs being formed in the country.
As it is elsewhere, one of the most important steps involved in forming a business in Texas is choosing a business name. This is because your business's name will affect its branding and how the public views it.
This article explores the steps you need to take to choose a good business name in Texas and how to perform a business search to see if your chosen business name is available for use.
Naming Requirements for Businesses in Texas
Texas, like every other state, has certain requirements that a business name must comply with. It's important to know what these requirements are before you decide upon a business name.
First of all, before you choose a name for a business in Texas, you need to know what business structure it will operate under. This is because your business structure will, to a large degree, dictate what naming requirements your business name must comply with.
Sole proprietorships, general partnerships, and other informal business structures must operate under the surname or surnames of their owners. Otherwise, their owner or owners must register an Assumed Name, also referred to as a DBA (Doing Business As) with the Texas Secretary of State or the counties in which they will operate.
LLCs, corporations, and other formal business structures have different naming requirements. If your business is structured as an LLC, you must have "Limited Liability Company," “LLC,” or “L.L.C.” in its business name. Similarly, if your business is structured as a corporation, its name must contain the words, “Corporation,” “Company,” “Incorporated,” “Limited,” or an abbreviation of any of these.
What's more, the name of your LLC or Corporation cannot:
- Contain words that might confuse it with a government agency, like “Treasury”, “FBI”, or “State Department”;
- Contain the words “lotto” or “lottery”;
- Imply that it is organized for any unlawful purpose; or
- Imply that it was created by or for the benefit of veterans of war or their families. As such, certain words, like “veteran” and “legion” are explicitly forbidden to be included in a business name in Texas.
Regardless of how your business is structured, its name must be able to be distinguished from the names of other existing businesses in Texas. Examples of names that would not be distinguishable include:
- “Butcher Shop LLC” vs. “Butcher Shop Inc.”
- “The Butcher Shop” vs. “A Butcher Shop”
- “Johnson and Johnson” vs. “Johnson & Johnson”
- “Wait Station” vs. “Weight Station”
Indicating a different business structure, adding a different article in front, using “&” instead of “and,” or using a name that is spelled differently, but sounds the same as the name of another business is not enough to render a name distinguishable.
Performing a Texas Business Entity Search
Once you have come up with a few alternative business names, you will have to perform a Texas business entity search to determine if the names are available to be used in Texas. Here a few recommended searches you should perform:
Perform a Search With The Secretary of StateThe first and most important place to search is Texas Secretary of State’s business name database. This can be done by simply visiting their website here and logging in to your SOSDirect Online Business Services Account or creating one, if you don’t already have one, and then following the instructions. Note, however, a fee of $1 will be charged for each inquiry made.
Alternatively, you can email the Texas Secretary of State at SOSDirect@sos.texas.gov and ask them to search a few names for you. You can also call the tate Business Information Line at call (512) 463-5555 and ask them to check the availability of a few names.
If your chosen business name is available, you can reserve it by visiting SOSDirect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If your chosen business name is already being used, you will have to adjust the name or choose a different one.
Perform a Domain SearchAfter confirming that your name is available in Texas, you should perform a domain search to determine if your chosen business name is also available as a URL. Even if you have not thought about making a website, you might want to buy the domain to keep others from taking it.
Perform a Trademark SearchNext, you should perform a search of the United States Patent and Trademark Office's trademark database to determine if your chosen business name has already been trademarked. If you find that the trademark is available, you can apply for a trademark for your business name, if the cost is within your startup budget.
Consult With an Experienced Texas Business Attorney
Naming your business is one of the most important steps when forming a business in Texas, for guidance on choosing a suitable name for your business and checking its availability, contact an experienced Texas business attorney.