Registration of a business name in a single state – this applies to the United States only because I know nothing about registering names in other countries – is usually easy. But if you’ll be doing business in more than one state, it can get complicated.
First, every state has a business name registry, usually administered by the state’s respective office of secretary of state. The job of registering a name begins at the state’s official web site.
I believe that now every state has an interactive name search function to determine if your name is in conflict with an already-registered competitor name. Then, if it is available, you can submit a request to register your company name. Check individual state web sites for the process – some states may not have an on-line registration service.
Here is a web site with links to all the state web sites having to do with business name registries.
It is possible that you’ll have to assume a “doing business as” name in states where another has registered your corporate name before you.
So that’s why I say it can get complicated if you are doing business with a physical presence in multiple states. My recommendation is to get professional help if the number is over four or five. It can be time consuming and every state has its own set of regulations and procedures so you might want someone who knows the territory.
A company that can perform these services for you is LegalZoom, an Internet-based organization offering services at very reasonable prices. They specialize in providing incorporation or LLC assistance as well as performing trademark and copyright applications, and several other services required by some businesses. (Note that I will make a commission if you click through and purchase services from LegalZoom.)
Remember, I’m not an attorney. Don’t rely on me or this blog for advice, except to say, “if you need advice about legal matters, seek the help of a qualified attorney.”