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Business Name Changes: 7 Legal Reminders

By Andrew Lu | Last updated on

Research In Motion has officially changed its business name to BlackBerry, after its once-ubiquitous product. Will this corporate name change help save the struggling company and revive BlackBerry sales?

That's yet to be seen. After all, how many people even realized that Research In Motion was the name of the BlackBerry maker in the first place? As many in the business world have ditched their BlackBerry devices in droves, it's unclear who even cares at this point.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, and changing a business' name can potentially pay off -- though a company has to jump through a lot of legal hoops to make it official.

If you're hoping to rebrand yourself like BlackBerry is trying to do, here are seven legal reminders:

  1. Consider Other Business' Trademarks. You don't want to take a name that is already being used, the Small Business Administration advises. This can lead to confusion and potential lawsuits.

  2. Check Domain Names. Even if the business name you want is available, the corresponding Internet domain name may not be. You can try to buy these off the owner, or go with a different name -- but again, make sure you're not infringing on a domain name trademark.

  3. Notify the State. Most states have their own procedures for changing business names. You'll probably have to pay a small fee, and the state will make sure the name is not already in use.

  4. Update Your Business Documents and Accounts. You'll want to notify everyone you do business with, from suppliers to banks, of your business name change so that they can make the appropriate changes.

  5. Tell the IRS. Let the federal and state tax agencies know of the name change. There are specific procedures you will need to follow depending upon your business structure.

  6. Change Your Advertising. Let your customers know of the name change and update all your ads and listings.

  7. Revise Your "DBA" Name. If you previously filed a "Doing Business As" with your local government (also known as a fictitious business name), you'll need to revise it.

If you have questions regarding changing your business name, you may want to speak with an experienced business attorney.

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