How to Register a Trade Name

By Lee Roberts

A trade name is the name by which you identity your company in commerce. Trade names are useful marketing tools that help companies to distinguish themselves and inform others about the type and quality of their goods and services. Registering trade names helps to increase certainty in the marketplace by giving consumers, creditors, suppliers, government entities and all other interested parties the opportunity to learn the true identity of the person with whom they are doing business.

State Law

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.

Protect your brand. Register My Trademark Now


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.

Protect your brand. Register My Trademark Now
Advantages & Disadvantages of Filing for a Fictitious Business Name



Related articles

How to Get a Sole Proprietorship

For an independent entrepreneur, a sole proprietorship is a common business structure because it is relatively simple to set up and allows for a great deal of flexibility in management. As a sole proprietor, you are personally liable for the business, but you also retain all of the business's profits. Although there are some similarities for all sole proprietorships, business formation is determined by state law where the sole proprietorship is formed.

How to Copyright a Performing Name

Copyright law does not permit you to protect your performing name, as copyright law only allows for the protection of computer software and dramatic, literary and other artistic works. Although it is not possible to copyright your performing name, you may trademark your performing name in order to protect your rights. It will be easier to trademark your performing name if your performing name is an arbitrary name such as Led Zeppelin or Slayer. However, if you intend to use your own name you may still proceed to apply for a trademark, but you will need to prove that your name has acquired secondary meaning in the eyes of the public.

How to Look Up an LLC

A limited liability company, or LLC, is formed under the laws of a state by filing articles of organization with a state business registration agency, usually the secretary of state's office. The articles of organization provide notice to the public that the company exists, that it will be operating as a business entity that is separate from its owners and that it can be contacted through a registered agent. The articles are a public document. All states maintain a database that is accessible to anyone over the Internet where this basic information about an LLC can be viewed.

File a Trademark Online. LegalZoom. Learn More.

Related articles

Do I Have to Use LLC in the Business Name?

The limited liability company, or LLC, is a creature of state law. As such, it is subject to the laws of the states in ...

Are There Restrictions on Naming a Sole Proprietorship?

Starting a sole proprietorship is a relatively simple way to open a business. Sole proprietorships accommodate the ...

How to Trademark a Performer's Name

As a performer, you want to prevent others from using your name in order to protect your reputation and prevent ...

How to Apply to Register a Trade Name in Arizona

Trade names, also known as "doing business as" (DBAs) or assumed business names, enable your company to operate in ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED