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Are there limitations or restrictions on what I can name my new business?

Yes. State laws (including California and Delaware) generally restrict what names an be used to register a new business:

  • The names must not be the same, similar to, or deceptively similar to an existing business

o    Capitalization or upper/lower case letters do not count when distinguishing your business name from another business’s name

  • Accents and non-English characters are not recognized
  • Supercript and sub-script characters are not recognized and are treated as standard letters/numbers
  • The name must not be likely to mislead the public

o    For example, using “Los Angeles Arts Development Agency” implies that the entity is affiliated with a governmental office, department, or agency. This would be impermissible.

If the correct suffix is not used after the new business’s name, the Secretary of State will reject the founder’s attempt to incorporate the business.

In addition to the above, the new founder should also be aware of potential trade name infringement matters, which occur when a new business is formed that is similar to an existing business in the same or similar geographic area, or a potential trademark violation, if a competing business’s name is protected by a federal or state trademark.  For information on trade name infringement and trademark infringement matters, please check out our article on that subject here.

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