A limited liability company (LLC) often uses a business logo to provide a visual identifier of the company. The logo can be used for branding, and it will lead current and potential clients to associate the logo with the company every time they see it. Logos typically appear on marketing materials, LLC letterhead, business cards, signage and, in some cases, merchandise. A commonly asked question is whether some form of “LLC” must be included in the logo design. In most cases, the answer is no, unless the logo displays the company’s complete legal business name.
What Is an LLC?
LLC stands for “limited liability company.” In short, it means that a business’s assets and liabilities are considered separate from the individual owners, who are referred to as members. This protects the members from being sued personally for debts or liabilities that the business incurs. The LLC business structure is straightforward and requires adherence to state rules regarding the proper filing to become an LLC.
Once a business is structured as an LLC, it is required to include the LLC symbol or the words “limited liability company” or some other variation of the structure as part of the official business name. Each state sets guidelines for this, but all states require it in some form. For example, an LLC named Baseballs & Banjos might be called Baseballs & Banjos, LLC, or Baseballs and Banjos, Limited Liability Co.
Now for the Logo Design
If the state requires that the company name include “LLC” or “Limited Liability Company” as part of the name, the state may also require that the company's logo also contain those words. For example, a logo with a dual-colored background and the words “Baseballs & Banjos” may need to include the full legal business name: Baseballs & Banjos, LLC.
In that scenario, if a logo design is a picture of a baseball and a banjo with no words, there is no requirement to include LLC in the logo because the actual business name is not on it. Additionally, a logo containing only the initials B&B is also not required to use LLC on that design.
This typically is not an issue because most logos do not use the business name; instead, they use a variation of it, such as the business’s initials or a branding image. Examples of this are the McDonald’s golden arches and the Nike “swoosh” symbol.
One Way to Avoid Errors
All states require some form of the words, limited liability company, or LLC, to be included in legal documents such as contracts, letterheads and other front-facing correspondence. One way to avoid errors or misunderstandings is to use the full legal business name, including LLC, on all documents pertaining to the business, as well as on marketing materials.
Though the company is not typically required to include LLC on business cards, it can add a look of credibility to the business. Also, using it on every correspondence tool, including business cards, is a good safety measure. If it is included as part of the logo design, it goes without saying that the logo on the business cards will naturally include the LLC designation.
Registering a DBA for an LLC
In some cases, the name that the business will be known by publicly is not the legal business name of the LLC. Members can register the LLC under one name and then register another name to brand the business. This is known as “Doing Business As (DBA).”
Not all states allow a business to designate a DBA , but for those that do, it is a viable alternative. Registering a DBA is a straightforward, simple and inexpensive process. After it’s done, businesses can use the DBA in a logo and do not have to include the LLC symbol because the logo doesn’t include the actual LLC business name.
For instance, if the LLC is named Ben and Sarah’s Auction Business, LLC, it can also register as a DBA such as, “It’s All About the Bidding.” They can have a logo designed that includes, “It’s All About the Bidding” and not be bound by the LLC rule.
Members can check LLC laws in the state in which the LLC is registered as well as the laws for the state in which the LLC operates to be sure of compliance requirements.
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