When you meet someone new, what’s the first thing you want to know about them? Their name. Your name is unique—it’s how people remember you.
The same goes for your Alaska business: choosing your name is the most important step of forming your company. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just picking the name you like best from a list. That works for babies, but not businesses. Alaska has several requirements that you’ll need to follow as you pick a name.
Fortunately, this five-step guide will help you pick a name that is both perfect for your business and compliant with state laws. We’ll also cover how to reserve your name once you’ve picked it. Let’s get started.
NOTE: If you have found the perfect business name and would like to begin the process of registering your business with the state, there are a lot of top rated LLC formation services — like LegalZoom and Zen Business — that can do it for you.
1) Review Alaska Name Requirements
Alaska has several requirements for naming your business. First, your name must include a designation of the type of company you’re forming. For example, if you’re forming a Limited Liability Company, you’ll need to include “LLC,” “Limited Liability Company,” or an abbreviation of those terms. Corporations must include “Inc.,” “Incorporated,” “Corporation,” etc. Regardless of what kind of entity you make, your name should reflect your business type.
Second, Alaska places a few restrictions on business names. Your name may not imply that your business operates as a government agency. If you’re not an incorporated entity (like those listed above), you cannot include “Inc.” or “LLC” or a similar abbreviation in your name. And depending on where you’re located, there may be restrictions on vulgarity in your business name. Finally, you cannot include language that applies to an occupation requiring licensure (such as engineer, architect, or cosmetologist) unless you also hold a license in that field.
In many states, there are extensive restrictions on using a distinguishable business name. Alaska, however, takes a slightly more complicated approach. Unincorporated entities are not required to choose a distinguishable business name; multiple businesses can operate using the same name. However, this changes if a name is registered with the state. Registered names grant exclusive use of the name for five years.
Similarly, names of incorporated names must be distinguishable but they can be “deceptively similar.” Simply put, if the name is different from an existing entity—even if it’s only by a single letter—then you can use it.
For a full listing of the state’s naming requirements, check out Alaska’s web page on Selecting a Name for Your Business.
2) Create the Perfect Name for Your Alaska Business
Now that we’ve covered all the things you can’t do with your business name, let’s focus on what you can do. Here’s where you can let your creativity shine. As long as you meet Alaska’s requirements, you can pick just about anything you like.
However, to make your business name perfect, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Pick a name that represents your business: Your business name is the first impression you’ll send to potential customers; you want to make sure it’s the right impression. So, be sure to include important aspects of your business in your name. For example, if you’re starting a restaurant that specializes in vegan fare, you’ll want that to be clear by your business name.
- Write it down and say it aloud: Your business name appears everywhere—business cards, your website, company signage, and more. A good name will look good on paper. But you’ll also say your name a lot, too, so make sure it sounds as good as it looks.
- Choose a name that you’re proud of: Do you like the name you’ve come up with? You love your business, and you should love the name that goes with it. If you love the name, then you’re good to move on to step three.
3) Search Your Chosen Name with the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development
Here’s how it works: input the business name you developed in Step 2. If the state’s search tools don’t find any results, then good news! Your name is available for you to use in Alaska. However, if it does find a match, you may want to start over or tweak your name a little to make sure it’s different from what’s currently in use in the state. Like we’ve said, it may not be necessary for you to create a different business name if it hasn’t been reserved. However, some businesses may find it helpful to choose a name that’s truly unique.
Here’s why: names that are barely different from each other may be confusing to potential customers. You’d hate to lose your hard-won customers to your competitor simply because of a name mix-up!
Want a pro tip to make these tools easier to use? Once you’re on the pages linked above, type in only the first blank labelled “Business Name” or “Entity Name.” These blanks are where you’ll type in your proposed name. The tool will pull up any existing businesses with names that are the same as or similar to the name you’ve developed.
While this step may seem like a hassle, it can save you time in the long run. You’ll need to put your business name on your formation documents; if you put down a name that’s already in use, the state will send it back to you, request a change, and you’ll need to file all over again. This could potentially slow down your start-up process by several days or even weeks. Searching your name ahead of time prevents that slow-down.
4) Reserve Your Business Name with Alaska
You’ve done the legwork to make sure your business name is free to use in Alaska. Now, let’s ensure that none of that work goes to waste by reserving your business name with the state.
In Alaska, you can reserve a business name by filing a Business Name Reservation. (Unincorporated entities use a slightly different form, the Business Name Registration). You can file this form by mail, in person, or online with the Department of Commerce. This form includes some information about your business, such as your business type, requested name, contact information of the person requesting the reservation, signatures, additional owners, and payment information.
A quick note on reservation v. registration: a registration is used by pre-existing entities looking to add a DBA to their business, or for unincorporated businesses wanting exclusive access to a name. On the other hand, the reservation is for entities that are looking to incorporate but have not done so yet. Reserving the name gives them the opportunity to choose a name and protect it while they go through the paperwork of incorporation.
Alaska requires a fee of $25 for this name reservation or registration. You can pay by check or credit card.
Reserving your name will protect your business name for 120 days, or if you’ve submitted the name registration, for five years. While it’s unlikely that another person will come up with the exact name you’ve chosen, this process prevents anyone else from using your name. The 120-day reservation gives you plenty of time to get all your affairs in order and file your formation documents.
5) File Your Alaska Formation Documents (for Incorporated Entities)
Even though filing a reservation gives you 120 days of exclusive rights to the name you’ve created, you’ll need to file your formation documents to make everything official. The document you need to use varies depending on the type of business you’re forming, but it’s often called the Articles of Incorporation or the Articles of Organization.
The Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing of the Alaska Department of Commerce serves as a helpful starting point for forming your business. Here you’ll find the forms you need to start your business, including the Alaska Articles of Incorporation. You’ll also find easy access to forms such as address updates, amendments, registered agent changes, and more.
Conducting a business name search is an important part of forming your business in Alaska. The search saves you time and helps you set up a name that makes your business stand out. We hope this guide made it simple to name your business.