State-by-State Business Name Restrictions: What You Cannot Have in Your Company Name

State-by-State Business Name Restrictions: What You Cannot Have in Your Company Name

“What's in a name?” asked Juliet. Four centuries later, we know that a lot rides on a name, especially when it comes to your business. Your business name impacts branding strategy, customer perception, growth and overall success. And while selecting your business name can be fun, it might also be one of the toughest choices you’ll make. The process isn’t as simple and "carefree" as you may think either. 

Did you know there are certain business name registration guidelines that you need to abide by while narrowing down the perfect name? And, if your business name isn't up to snuff, legally speaking, you stand to undo all the hard work you've put into starting a business and building an identity. In some cases, an inappropriate business name can even leave you vulnerable to a lawsuit.

Here’s the breakdown of what each state allows and doesn’t allow when it comes to business names. Knowing the laws that govern business entity names will go a long way in ensuring your name is appropriate and protected.

Incfile | Business Name Search Tool

The Name Game — Rules That Apply

Before we jump into looking at business name restrictions in each state, let’s cover some general guidelines that apply across all states and business structures. This section addresses concerns like, “Can you use a state name in a business name?” and “Are there any business name restrictions based on the type of entity you have?”

There are several federal and state laws that govern how you can name your business. Furthermore, your business's structure also impacts the naming rules and requirements. Here are a few common business name registration guidelines that are applicable across most states.

Common Business Name Guidelines Across States

  • You cannot use business entity identifiers like "LLC," “Limited Liability Corporation,” “Corporation” or “Inc.” if the business hasn’t been formally registered under the same. On the other hand, if your business is registered as a corporation or LLC, then some form of the identifier must be included in the name
  • The name cannot use any words that can confuse your business with a government agency or unit (FBI, Treasury, State Department, village, city). Words that commonly denote governmental organization include “Agency,” “Commission,” “Department,” “Bureau,” “Division,” “Municipal” or “Board" are also prohibited.
  • Professional licensing is required for use of words like “Doctor,” “Attorney” or “Certified Public Accountant (CPA).”
  • You cannot use words like “bank,” “insurance,” “trustee” or “trust” without permission. 
  • Names shouldn’t be deceptively close to another business name. For example, The Finish Line Company and A Finish Line Company are deceptively close names.
  • The business name should in no way mislead the customer. 
  • No use of offensive, racial or derogatory words are allowed. 

The above are just general guidelines. Each state has its own naming laws and restrictions that should be kept in mind while you’re coming up with a business name

State-by-State Business Name Restrictions

State 

Business Name Restrictions (for Corps & LLCs)/ Requiring Additional Documentation

Alabama

Bank, Banking, Banc, Engineer, Engineering, Olympic

Alaska

City, Borough or Village, or any words that otherwise imply that the company is a government body

Arizona

Bank, Banker, Banking, Banc, Banco, Deposit, Trust, Trust Company

Arkansas

Bank, Banker, Banking, Attorney, University

California

Bank, Banker, Credit Union, Trust, Trustee, Olympic, Olympiad 

*The name of an LLC may not include the words insurer or insurance company 

Colorado

Bank, Trust, Trustee, Olympic

Connecticut

Bank, Insurance Company, Trust Company, Olympic

Delaware

Bank, Banking, Banc, College, University

Florida 

Bank, Banker, Banking, Attorney, University, Olympic

Georgia

Bank, Banc, Banker, College, Credit union, Fidelity, Insurance, Olympic, Reinsurance, Reassurance, Surety, Trust, Trustee, Indemnity, University 


*LLC names cannot exceed 80 characters 

Hawaii

Accountant, Financial Institution, Bank, Banker, Banking, Banc, Savings Bank, Savings and Loan, Savings Association, Financial Services Loan Company, Credit Union, Trust Company, Intrapacific Bank, International Banking Corporation, Trust, Olympic, Olympiad, Citius Altius Fortius, Insurance

*No use of purely geographic names or landmarks registered with a recognized historical registry like "Honolulu," "Olomana," "Wailuku, Maui," "Kailua, Oahu," "Diamond Head," "Aloha Tower," "Pearl Harbor"

Idaho

Bank, Banc, Banking, Engineering, Engineer

Illinois

Bank, Banking, Fiduciary, Insurance, Trust, Trustee

Indiana

Bank, Banker, Banking, Savings, Safe Deposit, Trust, Trustee, Insurance, Credit Union

Iowa

Bank, Banker, Banking, Savings, Safe Deposit, Trust, Trustee, Insurance and Credit Union

Kansas

Bank, Banks, Banking, Banc

Kentucky

Cooperative

Louisiana

Bank, Banker, Banking, Savings, Safe Deposit, Trust, Trustee, Building, Loan, Homestead, Insurance, Casualty, Redevelopment Corporation, Electric Cooperative, Credit Union

Maine

Savings, Savings Bank, Bank, Banker, Banking, Trust, Trust Company, Trust and Banking Company, Credit Union or the plural or any derivatives of these terms

Maryland

Bank, Banker, Banking, Savings, Safe Deposit, Trust, Trustee, Insurance, Credit Union

Massachusetts

Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Government, PX, GI, Fire, Police, State, Federal

Michigan

Academy, Architecture, Bank, Banking, Banc, Deposit, Insurance, Co-Op, Credit Union, Surety, Security, Trust, Trust Company

Minnesota

Attorney, Bank, Banker, Banking, Savings, Safe Deposit, Trust, Trustee, Insurance, Credit Union, University

Mississippi

Bank, Banker, Banking, Savings, Safe Deposit, Trust, Trustee, Insurance, Credit Union

Missouri

Cooperative, Bank, Insurance Company, Redevelopment

Montana

Bank, Banker, Banking

Nebraska

Bank, Banker, Banking

Nevada

Accounting, Accountant, Accountancy, Auditing, Auditor, Insurance, Bank, Debt Collection, Trust, Engineer, Engineered, Engineering, Professional Engineer, Registered Engineer, Licensed Engineer 

New Hampshire

Bank, Cooperative, College, Credit Union, Dartmouth, Engineer, Engineering, Farmer’s Market, Forestry, Forester, University

New Jersey

Bank, Banker, Banking, Blind, Little League, Olympic, Olympiad, Handicapped, Cemetery, Postal, Realtor, Trust, Underwriters

New Mexico

Bank, Banker, Banking, Olympic

New York

Bank, Benefit, Blind, Board of Trade, Chamber of Commerce, Community Renewal, Corporation, History, Incorporated, Partnership, State Police, State Trooper, Tenant Relocation, Urban Development, Urban Relocation, United Nations

North Carolina

Architect, Architecture, Architectural, Bank, Banker, Banking, Certified Public Accountant, Cooperative, Co-op, Engineer, Engineering, Mutual, Trust, Insurance, Surveyor, Survey, Surveying, Wholesale

North Dakota

Bank, Banking, Banker, Trust, Farming, Farm, Farmer, Insurance

Ohio

Bank, Banker, Banking, Trust and words/phrases that are profane or considered a slur against an ethnic group, religion, gender or heredity

Oklahoma

Bank, Banker Farming, Farm, Farmer, Savings, Loans, Trust

Oregon 

Bank, Banking, Trust, Trustee or any obscene language

Pennsylvania

Bank, Banker, Banking, Cooperative, College, Credit Union, Engineering, Loans, Savings, Seminary, Surveyor, Trust, Trustee, University, Public Accountant, Certified Public Accountant 

Rhode Island

Bank, Banker, Banking, Trust, Olympic

South Carolina 

Bank, Banking, Savings, Olympic

South Dakota

Bank, Banking, Banker

Tennessee

Bank, Credit Union, Mortgage, Trust, Trustee


*Any business affiliated with, or sponsored by, any fraternal, veterans’, service, religious, charitable or professional organization needs to be certified in writing

Texas

Bank, Cooperative, Insurance, Lottery, Lotto, Veteran, Legion, Spanish, Trust, Foreign, War, Disabled, War, World War, Olympia, Olympics, University

Utah

College, University, Olympics, Olympia

Vermont

Bank, Banker, Banking, Insurance

Virginia

Bank, Trust, Insurance

Washington

Association, Bank, Banker, Banking, Cooperative, Home, Industrial, Loan, Savings, Society, Trust 

West Virginia

Accountant, Architect, Engineering, Doctor

Wisconsin

Insurance, Trust, Bank

Wyoming

Education, School, College, University, Bank, Banking

We’ve provided an overview of prevalent business name restrictions in each state; however, this is not a comprehensive list and doesn't replace legal research. Furthermore, states can change their requirements at any given moment.

If you've selected a name for your startup through a business name generator or your own brainstorming, here’s what you can do to make sure the name is distinguishable, legal and available. 

Steps to Ensure Your Name Is on the Right Side of the Law

Selecting a name that is not abiding by the law is one of the top mistakes you want to avoid. Follow these steps and get a business name that’s distinguishable and meets the latest federal and state requirements. When done right, this process will save you significant time and investment. 

Check with State Secretary on Naming Requirements

While most states have similar naming statutes, there are a few variations. In addition, name reservation, renewal and transferability laws also differ by state. All of these can be frequently updated or changed without any notice. Therefore, it’s best you check your state’s website for the latest guidelines on any restrictions on the name of a company.

Conduct a Name Search 

Came up with the perfect name that is void of any restrictions? Great! The next step is to find out if the business name is already registered. There are a variety of ways to check whether your desired name is legally available. Run a search through Incfile’s free Business Name Search Tool to identify if your proposed name is available with the Secretary of State. 

You can also run a trademark search with the United States Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO). This is particularly helpful if your business deals in more than one state. If a name is trademarked, it’s protected across all 50 states. 

Consult a Lawyer 

For any legal guidance, it’s always best to consult a lawyer to make sure all your bases are covered. Naming a business is serious and any misstep can result in a rejected filing or other legal implications. Work with a lawyer and make sure your proposed name is legit and protected. 

What's in a Business Name? A Lot!

Simply put, there’s a lot riding on your business name — once it’s in place, you can build your business’s entire structure and identity around it. But, finding a perfect name that meets all the above criteria can be quite an undertaking. Discovering that you’ve filed for an inappropriate name after you have done all the hard work of getting a company off the ground can be quite a setback. 

However, remember that Incfile is there to help you brainstorm, identify and even register the most appropriate name on your behalf whenever you're ready to start your business. Working with Incfile to generate and register your business name will ensure your business and its name are protected from day one.

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