All About Arizona Trade Names, DBAs, & Trademarks
by Richard Keyt, Arizona business attorney
The first step in forming an Arizona limited liability company is to pick a name for the company. You should carefully consider the company’s name. Do not write a name on your Articles of Organization without investigating potential names and doing some name selection homework.
You want to select a name for your Arizona LLC that will:
- Not be the same or similar as a trade name or trademark registered with the Arizona Secretary of State.
- Not be rejected by the Arizona Corporation Commission.
- Not infringe on a federal or Arizona trademark or service mark.
- Be an available internet domain name (if possible).
Arizona Trade Names & Trademarks
In Arizona, a trade name is a name under which a business or activity operates. For example, if my Arizona LLC is named “Best Widgets, LLC,” and it operates under that name, the company’s name and trade name are the same, i.e., “Best Widgets.” This is how most companies operate.
Trade names are also sometimes called “business names,” “doing business as” or “DBA’s.” Some companies operate under a name, a DBA, that is different from the company’s Arizona Corporation Commission or Arizona Secretary of State approved name. If my Arizona LLC named “Best Widgets, LLC,” operates under or holds itself out to the public as “Rick’s Widgets,” then the company’s trade name or DBA is “Rick’s Widgets.”
Trade names may be registered with the Arizona Secretary of State. Although Arizona law does not require that a company register its trade names, it is prudent to do so. There are three distinct advantages to registering an Arizona trade name:
- The Arizona Secretary of State will not allow another trade name to be registered if the new name is the same as or deceptively similar to a
registered trade name or the name of an existing Arizona limited liability company or corporation.
- The Arizona Corporation Commission will not allow a corporation or limited liability company to be formed with a name that is the same as or deceptively similar to a registered trade name or the name of an existing Arizona limited liability company or corporation.
- The registration of the trade name is evidence that the owner of the trade name claims rights to the trade name as of the date of the registration.
To register a trade name in Arizona, you prepare and file a form called “Application for Registration of Trade Name” with the Arizona Secretary of State and pay a $10 filing fee. You may complete this form online and print it on your computer. Sign the form and mail it to the address in the upper left corner with a check for $10 payable to the Arizona Secretary of State.
Before you file an Application for Registration of Trade Name with the Arizona Secretary of State, you should first search the Arizona Secretary of State’s online trade name database to see if there are any existing trade names that are the same as or deceptively similar to a registered trade name.
For more information about Arizona trade names, see the Arizona Secretary of State’s trade name and trademark web page and the Arizona Secretary of State’s excellent compilation of information and documents called the Arizona “Trade Name and Trademarks Handbook.”
Arizona Corporation Commission Name Approval
No corporation or limited liability company may be formed in Arizona unless its name is first approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission. Before preparing the Articles of Organization for your Arizona limited liability company, you should search the ACC’s online database of existing corporation and limited liability company names to see if your proposed name is the same as or deceptively similar to the name of an existing Arizona corporation or limited liability company. If so, find a different name.
Arizona LLC names must satisfy the requirements of Arizona Revised Statutes Section 29-602, which provides, in part, that the name of an Arizona limited liability company must:
Contain the words “limited liability company” or “limited company” or the abbreviations “L.L.C.,” “L.C.,” “LLC” or “LC,” in uppercase or lowercase letters.
- Not contain the words “association,” “corporation” or “incorporated” or an abbreviation of these words.
The name of an Arizona limited liability company must be distinguishable from the names of all of the following entities:
- an Arizona limited liability company.
- a foreign limited liability company authorized to transact business in Arizona.
- an Arizona corporation.
- a foreign corporation authorized to transact business in Arizona.
- an Arizona nonprofit corporation.
- a foreign nonprofit corporation authorized to conduct affairs in Arizona.
- an Arizona limited partnership.
- a foreign limited partnership authorized to transact business in Arizona.
- an Arizona limited liability partnership.
- a foreign limited liability partnership authorized to transact business in Arizona.
In addition, the name of an Arizona limited liability company must be distinguishable from:
- A trade name registered with the Arizona Secretary of State.
- A corporate name reserved under A.R.S. Section 10-402 or registered under A.R.S. Section 10-403.
- A fictitious name adopted by a foreign corporation under A.R.S. Section 10-1506.
Reserving a Name with the Arizona Corporation Commission
If you are not yet ready to file the Articles of Organization, you may reserve an available name for 120 days by preparing and filing an Application for Reservation of Corporate Name. Complete the form and mail it to the address on the top of the form with a check for $10 payable to the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Trademarks & Service Marks
Finding a good name for your new Arizona limited liability company can sometimes be the most difficult piece of the formation puzzle. Ideally, you want a name that: (i) will afford strong federal trademark protection, but will not infringe on anybody’s trademark or service mark, (ii) will be easy for your customers to remember, (iii) will describe your products or services, and (iv) will allow you to obtain .com, .net., .org, .biz and .info domain names. For information on obtaining domain names, see How to Obtain a Domain Name that Does Not Infringe on a Trademark.
One way to check if your desired company name will infringe on a federally registered trademark or service mark is to search your prospective name and variations thereof on the searchable database of the United States Patent & Trademark Office.
Unfortunately, obtaining a strong trademark that describes your product or services is frequently not possible. These two goals are in conflict. Most clients of trademark lawyers want a trademark that describes their products or services. For example, if I have a bar and grill called Rick’s Bar & Grill, it describes my business, but federal trademark law grants a lower level of protection to marks that are merely descriptive of the products or services. People like descriptive trademarks because they are descriptive. Trademark lawyers prefer marks that are arbitrary such as Apple® when used to identify computer products or fanciful marks such as Xerox® because these types of marks provide the highest level of trademark protection.