|Naming Your Business
After choosing a business structure most appropriate for your operation, the next important step is naming your business. You may wish to exercise care in selecting a name to avoid infringing on names filed by other businesses or being used by another entity as a trademark or trade name.
Sole Proprietor and General Partnerships
Sole proprietors and general partnerships that wish to conduct business under a name other than the real name of the person(s) must file a Registration of Firm Names (also known as "doing business as" application) with the county Register of Deeds. Before completing the form you should check the phone directory, real estate index and the Department of Financial Institution's Corporate Registration Information System (CRIS) to make sure no one else in the county is using the desired name. Search the internet for name registrations through ICANN - Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or one of the many accredited registrars of domain names. Sole proprietors and general partnerships can also elect to file a trade name with the Department of Financial Institutions.
Although these optional registrations create a public record of your use of a business name, the registrations, in themselves, do not establish or reserve exclusive rights to use of a name.
Corporations, Limited Liability Company, Limited Partnership or Limited Liability Partnership
The Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) applies two different name availability standards when naming a business. One standard requires a name to be "distinguishable upon the records of the DFI" for any domestic and foreign corporations, limited liability companies and limited liability partnerships. The other standard prohibits a name from being the "same as or deceptively similar" to another name, applies to domestic and foreign limited partnerships.
- You can do an on-line search of the Corporate Registration Information System (CRIS) or call the Department of Financial Institutions at 608-261-7577 to find out if that name is already in use or being reserved.
CAUTION: Name reservation and name registration are valid only for the State of Wisconsin. A search performed on CRIS will not reveal every business name in use in Wisconsin, as CRIS reflects only the names of entities on record with DFI. Do not assume that a name is available until you have written confirmation from DFI that your Articles of Incorporation or Organization have been accepted and "FILED." To determine the availability of a name in another state, you would have to perform a records search in that other state. The corporate record custodians in other states (usually the Department of Financial Institutions) may be able to help you.