Skip to content

How to Register a Business Name in North Carolina

    How to Register a Business Name in North Carolina
    (Last Updated On: September 18, 2023)

    Our content is reader-supported. We may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of our links.


    Embarking on a business venture in North Carolina? Congratulations! Before you dive into the exciting world of entrepreneurship in the Tar Heel State, make sure to register a business name in North Carolina. By doing so, you’ll not only protect your brand but also comply with the state’s legal requirements. Whether you opt for an LLC, corporation, or a “doing business as” (DBA) name, we’ve got you covered with a comprehensive guide to the registration process. 

    To make this journey smoother, consider enlisting the support of ZenBusiness, a reliable partner in business services. Let’s work together to lay the foundation for your thriving business in North Carolina!

    >> Get Started With ZenBusiness >>

    4 Steps to Register Your Business Name in North Carolina

    Before you can start making your mark, it’s vital to register your business name. This fundamental step protects your brand and ensures compliance with the state’s regulations. 

    Follow these four easy steps to officially register your business name in North Carolina and set the stage for success in the picturesque landscapes and vibrant cities of the Tar Heel State.

    Step 1: Choose Your Business Structure in North Carolina

    Selecting the appropriate business structure for your enterprise in North Carolina is a pivotal decision that can greatly impact the nature of your business and its future growth. In this article, we will delve into the various types of business structures available in North Carolina, both incorporated and unincorporated, and explore their operational mechanisms.

    It’s important to note that registering your business with the North Carolina Secretary of State is only mandatory if you choose a structure that requires incorporation. Let’s explore the different options:

    Sole Proprietorship

    The simplest business structure in North Carolina is the sole proprietorship, where the owner and the business are treated as a single legal entity. This means that the owner assumes personal responsibility for the business’s debts and liabilities. Establishing a sole proprietorship is a straightforward process with minimal legal and administrative requirements. Although registering the sole proprietorship with the state isn’t mandatory, obtaining local permits or licenses may be necessary.

    General Partnership

    In a general partnership, two or more individuals jointly own a business and share its profits and losses. Each partner assumes personal liability for the business’s debts and legal obligations. While registering a general partnership with the state isn’t compulsory, it may be necessary to file a “North Carolina Assumed Name Certificate” (DBA) in the county where the business operates.

    Limited Partnership (LP)

    A limited partnership in North Carolina consists of one or more general partners who manage the business and have unlimited personal liability, along with one or more limited partners who contribute capital but have limited liability. To establish an LP in North Carolina, you must file a “Certificate of Limited Partnership” with the North Carolina Secretary of State.

    Limited Liability Company (LLC)

    An LLC is a flexible business structure that combines the liability protection of a corporation with the tax benefits and operational simplicity of a partnership. To form an LLC in North Carolina, you need to file “Articles of Organization Limited Liability Company” with the North Carolina Secretary of State and create an Operating Agreement outlining the company’s management and ownership structure.


    A corporation is a separate legal entity from its shareholders, offering limited liability protection. In North Carolina, there are two types of corporations:

    • C-corporations
    • S-corporations

    To establish a corporation in North Carolina, you must file either “Articles of Incorporation For-Profit Corporation” or “Articles of Incorporation Nonprofit Corporation” with the North Carolina Secretary of State, depending on your business’s nature. Corporations involve additional formalities, such as developing bylaws, issuing stock, and conducting regular board and shareholder meetings.

    When selecting the business structure in North Carolina that aligns best with your needs concerning liability protection, taxation, and management obligations, it’s recommended to seek guidance from a legal or business professional. This decision will play a crucial role in shaping the future success of your business.

    >> Register Your North Carolina Business Name with ZenBusiness >>

    Step 2: Select a Unique Business Name in North Carolina

    In North Carolina, the process of naming your business involves several options to ensure uniqueness and compliance. These options include registering a legal entity name, obtaining a trademark, or operating under a different name while registering a legal one. However, it’s essential to note that naming regulations and requirements can vary from state to state, so it’s crucial to verify the specific guidelines applicable to North Carolina.

    When deciding on the naming approach for your North Carolina business, it’s crucial to consider the specific needs and circumstances of your entity. While it may be prudent to pursue all three routes to secure your business name from unauthorized use, you also have the flexibility to choose any one of the options. Although not mandatory, maintaining consistency across all registration methods is generally advisable.

    Let’s delve deeper into each naming option applicable in North Carolina:

    In North Carolina, businesses are required to register a legal entity name, which serves as the official identification of the company by the state. This name must be distinct to prevent potential conflicts with other businesses.

    North Carolina’s naming laws include guidelines regarding company suffixes (e.g., LLC, LP, or Corp) and require the name to accurately reflect the registered business type. You can verify the availability of a name by using the North Carolina Secretary of State’s online database.


    Obtaining a trademark in North Carolina provides protection for your business name or logo as intellectual property on a national level. Conducting a comprehensive search within the USPTO database is crucial to confirm that your desired name or logo isn’t already registered as a trademark.

    Once successfully registered a trademark grants you exclusive rights, preventing others from using a similar name or logo for similar goods or services, offering nationwide protection. However, it’s important to note that obtaining a trademark doesn’t automatically grant unrestricted rights to use the name or logo in all circumstances.

    Assumed Name (Doing Business As – DBA)

    North Carolina allows businesses to operate under a different name while officially registering under an “assumed” name, known as a Doing Business As (DBA) name. To do this, you must file an Assumed Name Certificate (DBA) with the county clerk’s office where your business is located. Uniqueness at the state level isn’t a requirement for these names, but federal trademark laws still apply.

    By familiarizing yourself with these naming options and carefully considering their implications, you can effectively register your business name in North Carolina while safeguarding your brand identity. Remember to choose a name that represents your business accurately and stands out in the marketplace.

    >> Try Out ZenBusiness Now >>

    Step 3: Check Business Name Availability in North Carolina

    Before proceeding with the registration of your business, it’s essential to check if the desired name is available for use in North Carolina. To do this, you’ll need to perform three types of searches:

    Start by conducting a federal trademark search to ensure that your chosen business name isn’t already trademarked. Federal trademarks take precedence over state-level registrations, so it’s crucial to avoid any potential conflicts. You can perform this search on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website using their TESS Search tool. If your preferred name is already trademarked, you’ll need to come up with an alternative name.

    >> File a Trademark with IncFile >>

    After confirming that your name isn’t trademarked, it’s time to check its availability for use in North Carolina. You can do this by utilizing the North Carolina Secretary of State Business Search tool. 

    During this search, be sure to perform two types of searches: one using the “Company” option to look for incorporated businesses (LLCs and Corporations) and another using the “Assumed Business Names” option to find DBA/Fictitious Name filings, typically used by sole proprietors and general partnerships. It’s crucial to check for both exact matches and significantly similar business names.

    Once you’ve ensured that your business name is available for use in North Carolina and not trademarked, consider checking the availability of the .com domain version of your business name. While not every business will require a website, securing the .com domain can be beneficial for branding and online presence.

    By registering the .com version of your business name with ZenBusiness, you secure exclusive rights to the website name, preventing others from using it. With affordable domain registration options, it’s a cost-effective way to safeguard your business identity.

    By performing these three comprehensive searches, you can confidently proceed with registering your business in North Carolina under a unique and legally available name.

    Step 4: Form Your Business With the State of North Carolina

    After finalizing your business structure and selecting a name, the next crucial step is to register your business with the state of North Carolina.

    To register your North Carolina LLC, you must submit the Articles of Organization to the North Carolina Secretary of State. You have the option to apply online (PDF upload) or through the mail. If you’re setting up a North Carolina corporation, you’ll need to file the Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State.

    You May Also Want to Know

    Protect Your Business Name With a Trademark

    Once you’ve confirmed the availability of your chosen business name and secured it, you may consider applying for a trademark. While this isn’t mandatory, obtaining a trademark offers nationwide protection under federal law. 

    This can be particularly valuable if you plan to do business on a national scale. Trademark applications generally cost between $225 to $400, with additional attorney fees and a renewal fee every decade. However, for most small businesses staying local, a trademark might not be essential.

    >> File a Trademark with IncFile >>

    How to File a North Carolina Fictitious Name – DBA?

    To file a North Carolina Fictitious Name (DBA), follow these simple steps:

    1. Choose a Name: Select the fictitious name (Doing Business As) you want to use for your business
    1. Verify Availability: Check if the name is available and not already in use by another business in North Carolina
    1. Assumed Business Name Form: Complete the Assumed Business Name form, which is available on the North Carolina Secretary of State website
    1. Filing Fee: Pay the required filing fee. As of my last update in September 2021, the fee was $26
    1. File the Form: Submit the completed form and the filing fee to the North Carolina Secretary of State by mail or in person
    1. Publication (if required): In some cases, you may need to publish the fictitious name in a local newspaper. Check with the county where your business is located to see if this step is necessary
    1. Renewal: Fictitious names in North Carolina are valid for five years and can be renewed before expiration

    By following these steps, you can successfully file a North Carolina Fictitious Name (DBA) and operate your business under the desired name.

    How to Change the Name of a North Carolina Business?

    If you wish to change the name of your business in North Carolina, you have two options:

    1. Assumed Business Name (DBA Name): This is the simplest way to operate your business using a different name without altering its legal name. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships can use this method to adopt a new business name. It’s also convenient for LLCs and corporations, allowing them to operate under brand names without the obligatory “LLC” or “Inc.” suffix required in the legal name.
    1. Amendment to the Legal Name: If you need to change the legal name of your LLC or corporation, filing an amendment is the appropriate course of action.

    Forms for both options are:

    • LLC Amendment of Articles of Organization
    • Articles of Amendment – Business Corporation

    You can submit these forms either by mail or online, along with a $50 filing fee to the North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State.

    >> Get Expert Assistance from ZenBusiness >>

    Business Name Registration Laws in North Carolina

    Here are some key points about business name registration laws in North Carolina:

    • Business Entity Types: North Carolina allows various types of business entities, including sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), corporations, and more.
    • Choosing a Name: When selecting a business name, you need to ensure it’s unique and not already in use by another registered business in North Carolina. The name must also comply with the state’s naming rules, which typically include avoiding prohibited words and certain restricted terms.
    • Name Availability Search: Before registering your business name, it’s a good idea to conduct a name search through the North Carolina Secretary of State’s website to ensure your desired name is available.
    • Registration Process: The registration process for business names in North Carolina is typically done through the Secretary of State’s office. The specific requirements and procedures may vary depending on the type of business entity you’re forming.
    • Fictitious Name (DBA): If you’re operating a sole proprietorship or partnership and want to use a name different from your personal name, you may need to register a Fictitious Business Name, also known as “Doing Business As” (DBA) name, with the county where your business is located.
    • Trademarks: Registering a business name with the state does not automatically provide trademark protection. If you want to protect your business name from use by others, you may need to apply for a federal trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

    It’s crucial to consult with legal counsel or visit the North Carolina Secretary of State’s official website to get the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding business name registration laws and processes in the state. State laws can change, and official websites provide the most reliable information for compliance.

    Bottom Line on How to Register a Business Name in North Carolina

    In closing, registering a business name in North Carolina initiates a promising entrepreneurial journey in the Tar Heel State. By thoughtfully selecting your business structure and name, fulfilling all requisite registrations, and contemplating trademark protections or fictitious name registrations as needed, you lay a robust groundwork for your business’s triumph. 

    Relying on trusted LLC services like ZenBusiness can expedite the registration process and provide expert assistance, paving the way for your business to flourish in North Carolina’s flourishing and diverse market.

    >> Use ZenBusiness To Register a Business Name in North Carolina >>

    How to register a business name in every US state: