State law controls whether and how you will have to register your trade name. Most states require you to register the name of your business if it is anything other than your own legal name. For instance, if your name is Daisy Smith, you would typically not have to register the name "Smith Plumbing," whereas you would have to register "Speedy Plumbing." At the time of publication, Kansas, Mississippi, Arizona and New Mexico do not require you to register your name, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. States use many different terms for trade names. Common terms include fictitious name, business name, doing business as, DBA and assumed name. You must identify the term that your state uses in order to find out how to register.
Typically to register your trade name, you provide your business name, address and phone number. In addition, for a sole proprietorship, you list your real name and address. For a general partnership, you give the names and addresses of the partners in the firm. A few states distinguish between for-profit and not-for-profit companies and therefore require you to identify the status of your business. Some states require limited liability corporations, limited liability partnerships and corporations to register, if they are using any name other than the one under which they registered initially as a business entity. Those companies must provide contact information for an authorized representative.
States typically require you to give them the information via a form or certificate. You must first identify the relevant authority within your state that handles the trade name process. The names and scopes of powers of these agencies vary widely across the states. You can register directly through your state, or you can take advantage of a third-party legal document service that files the paperwork on your behalf. Such a business may also help you to learn whether another company has registered the name you want to use. While many states do allow duplicate names, a unique name will aid in your marketing efforts.
In some instances, you may also register your trade name as a trademark to create an identity that distinguishes your company's goods or services from those of your competitors. If you conduct business exclusively within the borders of one state, register your trade name with that state. In the majority of states, you will need to contact the Secretary of State's Office. If you want to register your trade name on the federal level because you conduct business across state lines, you may file for federal trademark protection with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office directly or with the assistance of an online document preparation service.