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<July 2014>

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Name Your Business

There is more to naming your business than just coming up with something that sounds good and you happen to like.  Thought must be given to state and local requirements and making sure you don’t infringe upon the rights of someone else’s business name.

Legal Requirements and Implications

Picking a name for your business requires much more than just creativity and a working knowledge of your target market.  First you'll need to decide which business structure you will use, since each structure has its own peculiarities.  For example, many states require a sole proprietor to use their own name for the business name unless they formally file another name as a trade name, or fictitious name.  

Similarly, you will need to determine whether your trade name will be the same as the full legal name of your business.  Of equal importance is finding out whether your name or a very similar name is being used by another business, and if so, what rights they may or may not have to use the name in the area where you do business.  Keep in mind that some businesses only file trademarks within their locality, so it's possible that the same name can be used elsewhere.

Search and Registration

Trade names can be registered through Secretary of State, and for wider marketplace protection, through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  Businesses should first use the USPTO's online system to search all state and federal trademark registers to see if their proposed name is being used.

Domain Names

For many businesses that operate on the Web, trade names are synonymous with domain names, such as Amazon.com and Monster.com. Domain names are not registered through state or local government; rather they can be obtained through numerous online businesses, most of which will allow you to conduct a name search prior to purchase to make sure your chosen name isn't taken.


For information on trade name availability and forms contact: 
State Department of Assessments and Taxation
(410) 767-1184


For information on corporate name availability and forms, contact:
State Department of Assessments and Taxation

Corporate Name Availability Search

(410) 767-1184

Register a trade name

You may register a "trade name" with the Department of Assessments and Taxation. A trade name is the name by which a business is known to the public to distinguish it from another business or person.

For information on trade name availability and forms contact:
State Department of Assessments and Taxation

Trade Name Search and Registration

(410) 767-1184


You may register a "trademark" with the Secretary of State's office. A trademark is a unique graphic symbol or logo associated with a business, which distinguishes it from another business or person.

For more information on trademark registration contact:
Trademark Division
Office of the Secretary of State

Additional Resources
Business Owner’s Toolkit – Naming Your Business


Patents & Trademarks – U.S. Patent & Trademark & Office

Trademarks and Servicemarks – Maryland Secretary of State
Trade Name Application – Maryland Department of Assessments & Taxation

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