It is amazing to me how frequently I get asked about when and how business owners should be using the LLC modifier in their logo, website, trademark, business cards, social media pages and more.
The basic question is, do you need to include LLC in your logo and/or trademark?
The simple answer is that no, you are not required to include LLC within your LLC logo and in other marketing materials.
Before we get into specific areas where you DO in fact need to use these three special letters, let’s talk about why they are so important in the first place.
What does LLC even mean?
LLC stands for “Limited Liability Company”. Every state has its own statute, i.e. legal rules and regulations, about what names people can choose for their business entity. If you choose to form an LLC as a separate legal entity to protect your personal assets, then the first step is to file some paperwork (i.e. Articles of Organization) with the Secretary of State where you live and work. (Assuming you have already completed a proper name and trademark search).
And the most important item in that paperwork is the name of your new business. You likely were asked to include an LLC designation after your company name. This frequently includes the three letters “LLC”, but could also include things such as:
- Ltd. Liab. Co.
- Limited Liability Co.
- Limited Liability Company
The purpose of this modifier is to identify your business as an LLC in important legal documentation, so that people can look up your LLC name at the Secretary of State’s office where the LLC does business. (This is yet another reason you shouldn’t be operating a foreign LLC in your home state without registering it as such.) This is not necessary when operating as a sole proprietorship as potential customers would already know who they are dealing with then they hire you.
But the important thing to note here is that we are referring to “important legal documentation”. Although the LLC is part of your business name, it is not necessary in most marketing collateral and materials.
Where Must Your Include LLC?
When you are issuing any type of legal documentation, such as invoices or receipts, it is a good idea to include your legal business name, including LLC.
In addition, whenever you enter into legally binding contracts, they should include your full business name, including the LLC.
Some other legal documents that should include your full legal name are tax returns, your letterhead, and other legal records.
Your LLC is not required in Business Cards, Logos and other Marketing Materials
Take a minute and think about all the major brands you can. I'm talking Starbucks, McDonalds, Target, Apple, Tesla, Google, etc.
These are all major corporations and multi-billion dollar companies. They all have shareholders and have filed corporate documents (likely in Delaware – read this for why forming your LLC in Delaware is not a good idea).
But none of them include Inc., Co., Company, or Incorporated in their marketing materials.
This is because, first and foremost, it is not necessary. Secondly, it would just clutter up their brand name and public image.
Most large corporations operate under a “trade name”, which is to say that they are known by their simplified trademark without all the complicated legal jargon that is included in their formal name.
Another name for “trade name” is “fictitious name” or “DBA”.
(I personally hate it when I see “LLC” as part of a business domain name!)
If you have a complicated or non-sensical legal name, then it may be smart to start a “brand” around a simpler name that is easier for the public to recognize, and it one that you can protect using a trademark.
Most States Require You to Register Your Trade Name
If you are operating your business under a trade name, DBA, or fictitious business name, then you likely will need to file some paperwork with your secretary of state in the state where you do business.
Once again, this is a way for the public to know who they are doing business with.
The fees to register your trade name are typically minimal – $10-$50. Sometimes it is a one time payment, in other states you have to file an annual fee (although this is rare).
You do NOT need to include LLC in Your Logo
The bottom line here is that you do NOT need to include the three letters LLC in your logo after you finally get around to filing your LLC. (Your marketing team will thank you for this).
If you have already registered your trade name, then you can update that documentation when you file your LLC with the state, but you do NOT need to notify your professional logo designer and ask them to update your logo!
At Hawthorn Law® we are all about Trademarks!
At Hawthorn Law®, we are all about Trademarks and brand protection. If you are a creative entrepreneur trying to built an online brand, investing in a trademark to protect the rights to your business name is one of the smartest things you can do for your business.
If you are interested in learning more about how we can help you, please feel free to schedule a strategy session so we can map out a plan for your online business. If you are ready to get started with your trademark, click here to schedule a low-cost brand strategy and trademark review session to go over your options! (If you are looking for guidance on starting your business, LLC's, or general legal proctections and are not ready to proceed with a trademark, then please schedule a strategy call instead.)