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How to Register a Business Name in Washington in 2023

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

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    Embarking on a business venture in the Evergreen State? Register a business name in Washington is a critical initial move to ensure compliance and establish your brand presence. Whether you’re inclined towards an LLC or corporation or require a “doing business as” (DBA) name, we’re here to provide comprehensive guidance on the registration process. 

    Washington offers a streamlined procedure to register your business name, catering to various business structures. To simplify the process and receive expert advice, consider teaming up with ZenBusiness. Together, we’ll navigate the registration process and set the stage for your Washington business triumph!

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    4 Steps to Register Your Business Name in Washington

    In the Evergreen State, taking the step to officially register your business name is fundamental in laying the foundation for your entrepreneurial endeavors. To provide assistance throughout this journey, here are four easy-to-follow steps that lead to the official registration of your business name in Washington:

    Step 1: Choose Your Business Structure in Washington

    The ideal business structure for your venture depends on your business type and growth plans. In Washington, there are various options for both incorporated and unincorporated businesses. Let’s explore these options and their workings.

    Remember, you only need to register your business with the Washington Secretary of State if you choose a structure that requires incorporation, such as:

    Sole Proprietorship

    A sole proprietorship in Washington is the simplest business structure, where the owner and the business are legally the same entity. The owner is personally responsible for the business’s debts and obligations. Creating a sole proprietorship involves minimal legal requirements, and though not mandatory, local permits or licenses might be necessary.

    General Partnership

    A general partnership involves two or more individuals sharing profits and losses. Each partner is personally liable for the business’s debts. While a general partnership doesn’t need state registration in Washington, filing a “Washington Trade Name Registration” (DBA) at the county level might be needed.

    Limited Partnership (LP)

    A limited partnership in Washington includes general partners with unlimited liability and limited partners with liability protection. To establish an LP, file a “Certificate of Limited Partnership” with the Washington Secretary of State.

    Limited Liability Company (LLC)

    An LLC offers liability protection and partnership-like taxation. To create an LLC in Washington, file a “Certificate of Formation – Limited Liability Company” and draft an Operating Agreement with the Secretary of State.


    Corporations provide separate legal entity status with limited liability. Washington has C-corporations and S-corporations. File “Articles of Incorporation – For-Profit Corporation” or “Articles of Incorporation – Nonprofit Corporation” based on your business nature. Corporations involve additional steps like creating bylaws, issuing stock, and holding meetings.

    Choose a business structure in Washington that aligns with your needs, considering liability, taxation, and management. If unsure, seek guidance from legal or business professionals. Remember, your chosen structure defines your business’s foundation, so make this decision thoughtfully.

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    Step 2: Select a Unique Business Name in Washington

    In Washington State, there are multiple avenues for naming your business. You have the option to establish a legal entity name, secure a trademark, or utilize a different name while still registering the legal one. Regulations around naming differ across states, making it essential to grasp the requisites set forth by Washington.

    Much like the process of incorporating your business, the naming route you take in Washington hinges on the unique demands and circumstances of your entity.

    Although not obligatory, you might consider pursuing all three options to ensure the comprehensive safeguarding of your chosen name. Alternatively, you can opt for one of these avenues. Nevertheless, it’s generally advisable to employ the same name for all registration methods.

    Let’s delve deeper into each naming alternative in Washington:

    Businesses in Washington are obliged to register a legal entity name, which acts as the state’s identifier for your company. The name must be distinctive, minimizing the possibility of clashes with other businesses.

    Washington’s naming regulations encompass specifications regarding company suffixes (such as LLC, LP, or Corp) and dictate that the name should accurately portray the nature of the registered business. To check name availability, you can utilize the Washington Secretary of State’s Corporations and Charities Filing System.


    Securing a trademark in Washington bestows intellectual property protection upon your business name or logo on a national scale. To ensure exclusivity, conducting a thorough search within the USPTO database is crucial, as this confirms that the name or logo isn’t already registered.

    Upon successful trademark registration, your name or logo gains defense against usage by others for similar goods or services, granting nationwide protection. However, it’s important to note that a trademark doesn’t automatically confer unrestricted rights for name or logo usage in all scenarios.

    Doing Business As (DBA)

    Washington provides the option to officially register your business under one name while operating under a distinct name, referred to as a Doing Business As (DBA) name. To proceed, you need to file a DBA registration with the county auditor’s office in the county where your business is situated. These names are subject to federal trademark laws, but uniqueness at the state level isn’t a requirement.

    By comprehending and thoughtfully considering these naming choices, you can effectively register your business name in Washington and safeguard your brand identity.

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    Step 3: Check Business Name Availability in Washington

    Before proceeding with business registration, it’s important to confirm that your desired business name isn’t already in use. This is particularly crucial when establishing your company in Washington. To ensure the availability of your chosen business name, it’s advisable to perform three distinct searches:

    Begin by conducting a federal trademark search to determine if your preferred Washington business name is available. Trademarks hold authority at the federal level, taking precedence over state-level registrations. Therefore, it’s essential to ascertain that your chosen name isn’t already trademarked. Should it be trademarked, you will need to select an alternative business name.

    To initiate a federal trademark search, visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website and employ the TESS Search tool.

    >> File a Trademark with IncFile >>

    Once you have ensured that your business name isn’t trademarked, the next step is to verify its availability for use specifically within Washington. This involves searching through registered business names in the state. Utilize the Washington Corporations Search tool for this purpose.

    During your search, it’s not only important to confirm the exact availability of your chosen business name but also to check for any significantly similar names used by other businesses.

    Once you’ve established that your business name is free from trademark issues and is available for use in Washington, it’s recommended to conduct a search to determine the availability of the corresponding .com domain for your business name. Although not all businesses may require a website, it’s still advisable to secure the .com domain version of your chosen business name if possible.

    Securing your business name’s .com version through ZenBusiness prevents others from using the same website name. Website domain registration on ZenBusiness is a budget-friendly method to safeguard your business identity.

    Step 4: Form Your Business With the State of Washington

    Once you’ve decided on your business structure and name, the next step is to formally register your business with the state. This process ensures your business’s official recognition within the State of Washington.

    To register your Washington LLC, you’ll need to complete and submit a Certificate of Formation to the Washington Secretary of State. This can be done online or through mail. For those opting to register a Washington corporation, the requirement is to file the Articles of Incorporation with the Washington Secretary of State.

    You May Also Want to Know

    Protect Your Business Name With a Trademark

    After confirming the availability of your chosen business name and securing it, you have the choice to pursue a trademark for your business. The associated cost typically ranges between $225 and $400 and may also involve attorney fees, along with a renewal fee every ten years.

    While this cost might seem substantial for startups or emerging businesses, it provides your company’s brand with nationwide protection under federal law. This means that if others attempt to operate using the same or a similar name to yours, you’ll have legal precedent on your side. However, for most small businesses, pursuing a trademark isn’t a necessity unless they have aspirations of expanding nationally.

    >> File a Trademark with IncFile >>

    How to File a Washington Fictitious Name – DBA?

    To file a Washington Fictitious Name, also known as a DBA (Doing Business As), follow these steps:

    1. Choose a Name: Select a unique and appropriate name for your business that’s not already in use.
    1. Check Availability: Make sure your chosen name is available by conducting a name search on the Washington Secretary of State’s website.
    1. Download Form: Download the “Application for Registration of Trade, Business, or Fictitious Name” form from the Washington Secretary of State’s website.
    1. Complete Form: Fill out the form with accurate information, including your chosen fictitious name, your business’s legal name, contact information, and other required details.
    1. Notarize: Some counties in Washington may require the notarization of your DBA application. Check with your local county office to confirm if notarization is necessary.
    1. Submit: Send the completed and notarized form, along with any required fees, to the Washington Secretary of State’s office. You can submit by mail or in person.
    1. Publication (if required): Depending on your county’s requirements, you may need to publish a notice of your new DBA name in a local newspaper. Check with your county office to determine if this step is necessary.
    1. Renewal: Fictitious names in Washington need to be renewed periodically. Make sure to keep track of the renewal dates to maintain your DBA name’s validity.

    It’s recommended to visit the official website of the Washington Secretary of State for the most up-to-date and detailed information on filing a DBA in the state.

    How to Change the Name of a Washington Business?

    In Washington, altering the name of your business can be achieved through two distinct methods: applying for a trade name or submitting an amendment to the existing legal business name.

    The first approach involves acquiring a trade name (also known as a DBA name), which is the simplest way to use an alternate business name without necessitating a change to the legal name. This method is particularly suitable for sole proprietorships and general partnerships that wish to operate under a different name. 

    Additionally, it’s an uncomplicated option for LLCs and corporations, as it eliminates the need for an amendment and the complexities it might introduce to their business operations. This is advantageous since it allows them to operate with brand names that don’t require the inclusion of the required LLC or Inc. suffix in their legal names.

    On the other hand, if your intention is to change the legal name of your LLC or corporation, the recommended route is to submit an amendment to the existing legal business name. For your convenience, the required forms for both methods are provided below:

    • Amended Certificate of Formation – LLC
    • Articles of Amendment – Profit Corporation

    You have the option to submit either of these forms via mail, accompanied by the applicable $30 filing fee.

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    Business Name Registration Laws in Washington

    Here are the key steps and aspects to consider regarding business name registration laws in Washington:

    • Name Availability Search: Before registering a business name, it’s a good idea to perform a name availability search to ensure that the desired name isn’t already in use by another business in Washington. You can conduct this search through the Washington Secretary of State’s website.
    • Choosing a Name: Your chosen business name must comply with the state’s naming regulations. It shouldn’t be misleading or too similar to existing business names that could cause confusion.
    • Business Structure: The type of business structure you choose (e.g., sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation) can impact the registration process. Different structures have different requirements and considerations for name registration.
    • Registration: If the name you want to use is available and compliant with the naming rules, you can proceed with registering it. This registration is typically done through the Washington Secretary of State’s office. You might need to file specific forms and pay a registration fee.
    • Trade Name Registration (Doing Business As – DBA): If you’re operating under a name that’s different from your legal business name, you might need to register that trade name (also known as a “Doing Business As” or DBA name). This is especially relevant for sole proprietors and partnerships.
    • Renewal: Some states require businesses to renew their business name registrations periodically. Be sure to understand the renewal requirements in Washington if they apply to your situation.

    For the most accurate and up-to-date information, it’s recommended to visit the official website of the Washington Secretary of State or consult with a legal professional who specializes in business law in the state of Washington.

    Bottom Line on How to Register a Business Name in Washington

    In brief, embarking on the journey to register your business name in Washington marks a pivotal moment in your entrepreneurial path. With the meticulous selection of a fitting business structure and a one-of-a-kind business name, coupled with diligent completion of necessary registrations and exploration of trademark safeguards or a DBA name, you’re laying a robust foundation for your endeavors. 

    Make the most of resources like the Washington Secretary of State’s office to navigate the process, and consider enlisting the aid of services such as ZenBusiness to simplify your registration journey. With unwavering passion and dedication, your registered business name is set to illuminate the dynamic and innovative business landscape of Washington State.

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