Registering a business name or DBA is the next step for starting a business in Wisconsin. The process of registering a name depends on the type of business entity that was selected. In addition to finding the perfect name, there are a number of items to also consider that might keep you from using that name such as name availability, trademarks, and domain names.
REGISTER A BUSINESS NAME / DBA IN WISCONSIN FOR SOLE PROPRIETORS & GENERAL PARTNERSHIPS
If you are a sole proprietorship or general partnership in Wisconsin and doing business under your full first and last name, John Smith for example, there is no filing, but if the business will operate under a trade name or fictitious business name like John Smith’s Handyman Service, Mr. Handyman, etc, you will need to file an Assumed Name, commonly known as a DBA (Doing Business As) with the County Clerk’s office where the business will be located.
The fee to file a DBA varies by county but is typically around $30. Names cannot be duplicated. Typically it’s best to look through the phone book first, otherwise the county typically charges for a name search. Their name search fee is typically under $10.
Filing does not stop anyone else from using the name you choose. To protect a business name, see the next section on registering a trademark.
RESERVING A BUSINESS NAME IN WISCONSIN FOR A CORPORATION OR LLC
Picking a name for a Corporation or LLC can be more difficult than the sole proprietorship or partnership as each Wisconsin corporation/LLC has to be uniquely named and yours may already be registered.
The corporation or LLC name will be chosen at the time of filing for the corporation. To check and see if your name is available do a free corporation or LLC name search here.
A trademark can protect the business’s name and logo. The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) manages the registration of trademarks. Before settling on a name, check the USPTO database to see if your name is registered to another business. The cost for infringement can be high in both money but also time to rename a business. If the status is Live, you may need to revisit the name choice, however you may be ok if it’s in a non-related category. In either instance, you should seek legal review. For some businesses that do business outside their local area, it may make sense to get a trademark. Filing for a Federal trademark starts at $225 and lasts 7 years. Options for filing trademark:
- Do it Yourself – It is possible to file for a trademark without the help of an attorney. To review the process, get more information and apply, visit the USPTO website.
- Use a Service – Typically less expensive than an attorney and sufficient for most businesses. Registration costs from services like LegalZoom are typically under $200, plus the Federal fee.
- Hire an Attorney – For more complicated cases or if more personalized assistance is needed, an attorney may be the best option. Prices for an attorney to file a trademark usually start at $1,000 for simple trademarks.
While it’s not a requirement to have or register a domain name, having a domain name that is similar to your business’s name is a good idea to make it easier for customers to find you. To search possible names, visit a domain registrar such as
Namecheap, Hostgator or Bluehost to see if it’s available. If your particular name isn’t available, they also have the ability to search names that are similar.
The cost for a domain runs $10-$15 per year.