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A common question we get when a logo, business card or marketing materials are being created, whether it’s required to include LLC, Limited Liability Company, etc.
A few things to touch on before talking about using the business name on logos and business cards making sure to properly select a name for the LLC. The first step is to research the LLC name availability with the Secretary of State (or related state registration agency) to ensure the name is unique and available to register. Once we know that the name can be registered with the state, it’s important to then make sure the name doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. The way to research this is to do a trademark search with the U.S. Patent Trademark Office.
With the basics of naming an LLC out of the way, let’s get back to answering whether the entity designator needs to be included with the logo or business card. The entity designator is the word at the end of a registered business name such as LLC, Limited Liability Company, Limited, etc. Each state has different requirements for naming an LLC and those entity designators have to be used in a specific way.
Is the word LLC required in a logo?
What seemed like a simple question, turned out not to be. We talked with several attorneys and not all of them agree.
A few attorneys said the entity designator should be used on everything, including the logo. They say this leaves no question in the customer’s mind that the business is an LLC.
The common issue is that using the entity designator in a logo makes it less visually attractive. These attorney’s offer a solution, which is to register a DBA. The DBA or Doing Business As (also known as an Assumed Name, Fictitious Business Name or Trade Name) allows an LLC to operate under a different name from the legal name that is registered. In this instance, the LLC will use the same business name and simply exclude the designator. This is the most secure way to use a logo without the entity designator.
Registering a DBA for an LLC is usually, but not always, different than a DBA registration for a sole proprietorship or partnership. Every state is different, but in most cases the LLC will file a DBA with the Secretary of State, while many states require the sole proprietor or partnership to register with the county Clerk’s Office where the business is located.
On the other side of the argument, a majority of attorneys say a logo is not required to use the entity designator. Since the logo is an extension of a company’s trade name, the designator doesn’t need to be included with a logo.
What all attorneys agree with on is the full registered company name must be used in all other business information such as invoices, contracts, websites, tax returns, leases, receipts, or any other legal documentation.
To keep the liability protection of the LLC, it’s vital that documents are signed on behalf of the LLC. Never sign documents personally, instead sign them as John Doe, Member of XYZ Business LLC. If a document is signed personally, the person signing the document may be held liable should legal issues arise.
What about business cards and marketing materials?
Most of the attorneys we talked with recommended including the full legal name of the business somewhere on the business card or any marketing materials. While the logo will most likely not have the designator, the text should indicate the business is a registered legal entity. Not only a benefit from a legal standpoint, using the full business name indicates the company is an LLC and customers are more likely to see it as a more credible and legitimate business.