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| 3 minutes read

What's In a Name? A Short Primer on Naming Your Business in NY

One of the first and most important decisions you make when you form your business in New York State is choosing your business name. As applicants discover, it can also be one of the most difficult. If you hold a professional license, it becomes even more challenging. So while your attorney works out the best formation options for you, it is a good idea to check out these sites to get a head start on choosing a name for your new entity.

Does anybody already have the name you want? A simple google search can show you whether a business with that name is already in use, and whether the domain is already owned. 

The first official site for you to visit on your name search journey is the New York State Secretary of State's Corporation and Business Entity Database Search. If someone already has the name registered in New York, you will see it there and know that you should find another name. 

New York has specific rules about what you can call your new business. There are words such as "Institute" and "Cooperative" that cannot be used except by specially designated entities. A list of these restricted and prohibited words to avoid can be found here:

Once you find a name you like that has not already been registered in New York, and does not contain any restricted or prohibited words, you may want to cast a wider search to see whether your preferred name is already being used by anyone else in the U.S. You will want to learn whether anyone else has registered the name, trademarked it, trademarked a logo for it, or otherwise protected the name and/or design marks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This is especially important if you plan to engage in interstate activities including use of the internet for marketing or sales for your business. Even if you do not foresee needing to stop anyone else from using the name, someone who already has the name may decide to stop you. Searching this site can become a very complex matter, but performing a basic word mark search using the USPTO Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) search is not complicated.

New York State licensed professionals forming an entity in which they will practice that profession must form a "Professional" entity, and these entities have additional rules about naming. Professional names must first be approved by the New York State Department of Education. They require that any profession be identified in the name and appear accurately. Any individuals identified in the name must use their name as it is appears on their professional license. In addition, there is another layer of restricted or prohibited words and phrases that professionals must avoid when naming their professional entities, including words that are spelled or are pronounced similar to foreign words or phrases that would be restricted if in English, names that imply superiority or guaranteed results, or that contain unnecessary punctuation, or are not normally connected with their profession. Using such a word or spelling without a good explanation will cause it to be rejected. These rejections are time consuming. 

Again, your attorney can help you with this registration, especially if you choose a word that requires an explanation. For a list of tips developed by the Department of Education to get a head start on avoiding these delays, visit here:

For the purpose of establishing a brand identity, you may choose to register an official company name and then be more commonly known to the public under a shorter, simplified name that is easier to market and for which to develop a logo. Unlicensed individuals forming a small business can identify themselves using the common d/b/a or "doing business as" designation, but licensed individuals forming a professional corporation cannot. Instead, they must file a certificate of assumed name. The rules for the assumed name are similar to those of the professional name itself. Guidance is available from your business attorney to help. 

When you do finally have an approved name and a logo, it is a good idea to register those marks to protect them. In addition, if you intend to do business under this name in other countries including Canada, additional searches and registrations will be required. 

"Your application will be rejected if you do not submit an explanation for words used in your entity name that are: initials, foreign words, surnames, abbreviations or words not commonly used in connection with the profession(s) being practiced." Office of the Professions, New York State Education Department