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How to Register a Business Name in Wisconsin

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

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    Ready to register a business name in Wisconsin? Whether you’re leaning towards establishing an LLC or corporation or opting for a “doing business as” (DBA) name, we’re here to provide you with an expert manual through the registration process. As you navigate the intricacies of business registration in the Badger State, consider partnering with ZenBusiness for expert assistance. Together, let’s pave the way for your business success in the state of Wisconsin!

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    4 Steps to Register Your Business Name in Wisconsin

    Initiating the process of officially registering your business name in Wisconsin is a critical move in establishing your entrepreneurial footprint within the state’s domain. To assist you in navigating this progression, here are four uncomplicated steps to ensure the formal registration of your business name in Wisconsin:

    Step 1: Choose Your Business Structure in Wisconsin

    When contemplating the most suitable business structure for your Wisconsin venture, it’s crucial to evaluate both the nature of your business and your growth aspirations. Let’s delve into a detailed exploration of the various available options, whether incorporated or unincorporated.

    It’s important to note that registering your business with the Wisconsin Secretary of State is only obligatory if you opt for a structure that necessitates incorporation. Here are the alternatives to consider:

    Sole Proprietorship

    In Wisconsin, a sole proprietorship is the most straightforward business structure, wherein the owner and the business are treated as a single legal entity. This entails the owner taking personal responsibility for the business’s debts and obligations. The process of establishing a sole proprietorship is relatively uncomplicated, involving minimal legal and administrative requisites. While state registration isn’t obligatory, you might need to obtain local licenses or permits.

    General Partnership

    A general partnership involves two or more individuals jointly owning a business, sharing both profits and losses. Each partner in a general partnership bears personal liability for the business’s financial obligations and legal commitments. While Wisconsin doesn’t mandate registration of a general partnership with the state, it might be necessary to file a “Wisconsin Assumed Name Certificate” (DBA) in the county where your business operates.

    Limited Partnership (LP)

    In Wisconsin, a limited partnership comprises one or more general partners responsible for managing the business and incurring unrestricted personal liability alongside one or more limited partners who contribute capital but face limited liability. To establish an LP in Wisconsin, you must file a “Certificate of Limited Partnership” with the Wisconsin Secretary of State.

    Limited Liability Company (LLC)

    An LLC presents a versatile business structure that combines the liability safeguard of a corporation with the tax advantages and ease of a partnership. Forming an LLC in Wisconsin entails submitting Articles of Organization to the Wisconsin Secretary of State and drafting an Operating Agreement to delineate the company’s management and ownership framework.


    A corporation stands as an independent legal entity distinct from its proprietors (shareholders) and provides limited liability protection. In Wisconsin, there exist two types of corporations:

    • C-corporations
    • S-corporations

    Establishing a corporation in Wisconsin requires submitting Articles of Incorporation to the Wisconsin Secretary of State, contingent on your business category. Corporations involve more procedural formalities, including crafting bylaws, issuing shares, and conducting regular board and shareholder assemblies.

    Select the Wisconsin business structure that aligns with your requirements, factoring in elements like liability protection, tax implications, and management criteria. Should you need guidance in this decision-making process, seeking advice from a legal or business expert is recommended.

    >> Register Your Wisconsin Business Name with ZenBusiness >>

    Step 2: Select a Unique Business Name in Wisconsin

    In the state of Wisconsin, aspiring business owners have three distinct pathways to select from when it comes to naming their enterprises: registering a legal entity name, securing a trademark, or registering a legal name while operating under a different title. As naming regulations and directives vary from one state to another, it’s imperative to undertake a thorough exploration of Wisconsin’s specific prerequisites.

    Much like the process of incorporating your business, the naming strategy you opt for in Wisconsin will hinge upon the unique necessities and circumstances of your entity.

    You have the option to pursue all three avenues to ensure the comprehensive protection of your chosen name, or alternatively, you can elect to pursue one of the three available choices. While it’s not obligatory, it’s generally advisable to maintain consistency in the name across all registration methods.

    Now, let’s delve into an in-depth examination of each naming option available in Wisconsin:

    In the state of Wisconsin, businesses are obligated to formally register a legal entity name. This name functions as the official designation employed by the state to formally identify the company. It’s of paramount importance that entity names possess a distinctive quality, thereby mitigating the likelihood of another business adopting an identical name.

    Wisconsin’s naming statutes encompass specific guidelines concerning company suffixes (e.g., LLC, LP, or Corp). Moreover, the name must accurately encapsulate the type of business that’s being registered. Ensuring name availability can be accomplished through the official database offered by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.


    A trademark in Wisconsin functions as a form of intellectual property that affords protection to a business name or logo at the national level. Conducting a comprehensive search within the USPTO database is an imperative step, as it guarantees that the desired name or logo isn’t already registered, thereby preserving its distinctiveness.

    Upon the successful registration of a trademark, it extends safeguarding to others employing the same or akin name or logo for analogous goods or services on a nationwide scale. It’s vital to acknowledge that obtaining a trademark does not automatically grant unrestricted utilization of the name or logo in all conceivable scenarios.

    Doing Business As (DBA)

    Wisconsin provides the flexibility to register your business under an official name while conducting operations under an alternative identity, commonly recognized as a Doing Business As (DBA) name. To establish a DBA, the submission of a Registration of Firm Name (DBA) to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions is mandatory. Although these names are subject to federal trademark regulations, no stipulation exists mandating the uniqueness of a DBA at the state level.

    By attaining a comprehensive grasp of these distinctive naming avenues, you can adeptly navigate the process of registering your business name in Wisconsin and effectively shield your brand’s distinctive identity.

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    Step 3: Check Business Name Availability in Wisconsin

    Before proceeding with business registration, it’s essential to ensure that your desired business name isn’t already in use. This can be the case sometimes, where another entity in Wisconsin might already be operating under the same name. To conduct a comprehensive search for business name availability, follow these three steps:

    The first task to confirm the availability of a business name in Wisconsin is to conduct a federal trademark search. Trademarks hold authority at the national level, surpassing state-level registrations. Thus, it’s crucial to ensure that your preferred business name isn’t already trademarked. Should it be trademarked, you will need to select an alternative business name.

    To carry out a federal trademark search, visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website and make use of the TESS Search function.

    >> File a Trademark with IncFile >>

    Once you’ve determined that your chosen name isn’t trademarked, the next step is to verify its usability within Wisconsin. To accomplish this, explore the Wisconsin Search Corporate Records tool to look up registered business names in the state.

    In your search, your objective should be not only to ascertain the availability of your precise business name but also to ensure that no other enterprises are using significantly similar names.

    After confirming that your business name is both available for use in Wisconsin and not trademarked, it’s advisable to conduct a search to determine if the .com version of your business name’s domain is available. While not all businesses may require or plan to establish a website, it’s still recommended to attempt registering the .com domain corresponding to your business name.

    By acquiring your business name’s .com domain through ZenBusiness, you establish exclusive ownership, preventing others from utilizing the same web address and protecting your brand identity.

    Step 4: Form Your Business With the State of Wisconsin

    After finalizing your chosen business structure and name, the next step involves submitting your formation paperwork to the state. This action will officially register your business with the State of Wisconsin.

    To register your Wisconsin-based Limited Liability Company (LLC), you must file the Articles of Organization with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. This can be done either through online submission or by traditional mail. If you’re opting for a Wisconsin corporation, you will need to file the Articles of Incorporation with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

    You May Also Want to Know

    Protect Your Business Name With a Trademark

    Upon confirming the availability of your business name and successfully securing it, you have the option to apply for a trademark for your business. Typically, this process comes with costs ranging from $225 to $400, plus potential attorney fees. Additionally, there’s a renewal fee every decade.

    Though the investment might seem steep for newly established or small businesses, it offers your brand nationwide protection under federal law. Consequently, should others attempt to operate using an identical or similar name, you possess legal precedence. However, for most small businesses, this level of protection isn’t essential unless they have aspirations of operating on a national scale.

    >> File a Trademark with IncFile >>

    How to File a Wisconsin Fictitious Name – DBA?

    To file a fictitious name (DBA) in Wisconsin, follow these steps:

    1. Choose a Name: Select the fictitious name you want to use for your business
    1. Search Availability: Check if the chosen name is available by searching the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions’ database
    1. Download Form: Download the “Registration of Firm or Trade Name” form from the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions website
    1. Complete the Form: Fill out the form with accurate information, including your chosen fictitious name, your business information, and your contact details
    1. Notarize the Form: Some counties require notarization of the form, so ensure you complete this step if necessary
    1. Submit Form and Fee: Mail the completed form along with the required filing fee to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
    1. Await Confirmation: Once processed, you will receive confirmation of your fictitious name registration

    Filing requirements may vary, so always check the latest guidelines on the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions website or contact them directly for accurate information.

    How to Change the Name of a Wisconsin Business?

    In Wisconsin, there exist two approaches for renaming a business: either by registering a trade name or by submitting an amendment to the current legal name of the business.

    The simpler approach involves acquiring a trade name (also known as a “doing business as” or DBA name). This allows your business to function under a different name without necessitating a legal name change. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships specifically benefit from this option. Moreover, LLCs and corporations find it convenient as it allows them to operate under brand names that exclude the mandatory LLC or Inc. suffix seen in legal names.

    However, if your intention is to alter the legal name of your LLC or corporation, your best course of action is to file an amendment with the applicable government agency. Here are the pertinent forms for both possibilities:

    • Articles of Amendment for LLCs
    • Articles of Amendment for Corporations

    Both options can be submitted via mail alongside the required $40 filing fee.

    >> Get Expert Assistance from ZenBusiness >>

    Business Name Registration Laws in Wisconsin

    In Wisconsin, business name registration is typically done through the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). When registering a business name, you have several laws:

    • Registering a Trade Name (DBA – Doing Business As): If you plan to operate your business under a name different from your legal name (for sole proprietors) or your business entity’s legal name (for entities like corporations or LLCs), you’ll need to file a trade name registration. This is also known as a “Doing Business As” (DBA) registration.
    • Incorporating or Forming an LLC: If you’re forming a corporation or a Limited Liability Company (LLC), the name you choose for your business will need to be checked for availability as part of the incorporation or LLC formation process.
    • Check Name Availability: Before registering a business name in Wisconsin, you should conduct a search to ensure that the name you want to use is available and not already in use by another business. The DFI provides online tools for conducting a name search.
    • Registering Online: The Wisconsin DFI allows businesses to register their trade names online through their website. The online registration process typically involves providing information about the business entity, the desired trade name, and other relevant details.
    • Renewal: Trade name registrations in Wisconsin usually need to be renewed periodically to remain valid. Make sure to keep track of renewal dates to avoid any issues.
    • Protecting Your Name: Registering a trade name doesn’t grant you exclusive rights to that name. If you want to protect your business name from use by others, you may need to consider trademark registration.

    It’s important to understand that business laws can change over time, so it’s recommended to consult the official Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions website or seek legal advice to ensure you have the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding business name registration in Wisconsin.

    Bottom Line on How to Register a Business Name in Wisconsin

    In brief, embarking on the process of registering your business name in Wisconsin is the pivotal inaugural step toward your entrepreneurial aspirations. By thoughtfully opting for an original business structure and name, fulfilling all obligatory registration requisites, and contemplating strategies for trademark safeguarding or a DBA name, you lay a robust cornerstone for your business’s prospective accomplishments. 

    Leverage the support of specialized LLC services like ZenBusiness to gain expert insights and assistance during the registration process, streamlining your advancement in Wisconsin’s thriving business arena. 

    With unwavering passion, you set forth on a remarkable expedition, poised to make a substantial imprint on the state’s burgeoning business tapestry, with your officially registered business name guiding the way ahead.

    >> Use ZenBusiness To Register a Business Name in Wisconsin >>

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