If you’re an entrepreneur in Alabama, you may not wish to use your business’s full legal name for all of your company’s activities. If so, a “doing business as” (DBA) name could be a helpful branding tool, allowing you to conduct your small business under a different title. Follow the steps below if you’re interested in creating a DBA name for your Alabama business.
Each state regulates DBA names differently, and Alabama’s laws are distinct from those in many other states. In Alabama, the business filing a DBA must already be using the alternative business name at the time they file for registration. This makes Alabama unique, as most states generally don’t allow the use of a DBA prior to registration.
Although we don’t currently support DBA registration in Alabama, this guide will provide an overview of how these names are regulated, the formal process for registering one, and the steps you’ll need to take to renew your name over time.
If you decide to register a trade name for your business in Alabama, you’ll need to complete a corresponding process with the Alabama Secretary of State.
Within that agency, the Trademarks Division oversees the trade name registration process. In fact, there is a single form for registering a trademark, service mark, or trade name in Alabama. That document is called the Application to Register or Renew Trademark, Service Mark, or Trade Name. For this article, you can focus on the trade name aspect exclusively.
As you might expect, that form requires details about the name of the registering company and information about the trade name’s purpose and use. But Alabama’s process for registering a trade name also differs in some respects from that of other states. In particular, because Alabama companies can start using trade names before registering them, you’ll need to provide evidence that your business is using the trade name currently.
In the state’s trade name regulations, these items of proof are called “specimens.” Examples might include a company letterhead featuring your trade name, a business card, or any marketing material. To register your trade name, you’ll need to provide three separate specimens.
Depending on your preference, you can submit your application and supporting materials by mail or online. Here’s a step-by-step guide for each of these methods:
Complete the Application to Register or Renew Trademark, Service Mark, or Trade Name. Most of the required fields are self-explanatory, but be sure to note which fields are necessary for initial registration instead of a renewal. You can use the attached “Schedule of Classification of Businesses” document to determine the appropriate industry code for your business for Question 7. 2.
Attach originals or legible copies of the three specimens, and ensure that each specimen precisely matches the trade name you hope to register. Attach the filing fee for the trade name application, which you can pay by check or credit card. If you choose to pay by credit card, complete and attach this credit card payment slip. Compile your application, specimens, and payment in a single envelope and mail it to the Office of the Secretary of State, Trademarks Division.
Once you register your trade name in Alabama, you’ll need to renew your registration every five years. Thankfully, the process for renewing a trade name involves the same form you submitted to register your trade name, the trade name registration process Application to Register or Renew Trademark, Service Mark, or Trade Name.
In fact, the renewal process is even easier than the initial registration because you’ll only be required to provide a single “specimen” to demonstrate your use of the trade name. The renewal application can be submitted online or by mail, as with the initial registration.
There’s another aspect of trade name compliance: What happens if you need to change ownership of a trade name? This might occur if you sell your business or wish to obtain a trade name from another company.
Fortunately, you can accomplish this transfer using the Application to Assign Trademark, Service Mark, or Trade Name. This form is similar to the registration and renewal application but assigns the trade name to a different entity. One major difference is that this form must be notarized. If you’re merging with another business, you’ll need to attach a copy of your Alabama Certificate of Merger.
If you’d rather focus your energies elsewhere, let our team keep track of your trade name compliance. For a low annual fee, ZenBusiness will ensure that your trade name registrations are always accurate and up to date.
A DBA name enables a business entity to operate without using its full legal title. This option can provide convenience and branding benefits, especially for certain businesses. The state government maintains records of DBA names to track the activities of businesses under the names they’re using.
In various states, DBA names are sometimes referred to as “fictitious business names,” “fictitious names,” or “assumed names.” In Alabama, the technical term for a DBA name is a “trade name.”
Generally, there are two major categories of businesses that seek DBA names:
In discussing DBA names (or trade names), it’s also important to note what they are not. DBA names do not establish a new business entity or alter the tax status of an existing business. Nor do they “copyright” or “trademark” a business name. Instead, they create a new way to identify a business entity.
Alabama has a unique set of regulations concerning trade names. Except for foreign entities hoping to operate under a different name, Alabama businesses can freely use names other than their formal ones.
Registering a trade name is an optional process, and businesses are expected to begin using their trade names before applying for registration. In fact, if you choose to register a trade name, you’ll be asked to provide proof of how you’re using it already.
Given these relaxed regulations, why would you choose to register your trade name formally? For one thing, certain business activities might require you to register your trade name. For example, if you wish to open a bank account under your trade name, your banking institution will likely ask for proof of your trade name registration. Additionally, if you wish to do business across state lines, a registered trade name may come in handy in stricter states.
Plus, registering your trade name may deter others from using it. On both a state and a federal level, once you adopt and use a mark and are documented as the first to use such mark, you are entitled to exclusive rights to that mark. Therefore, registering your trade name would document your exclusive rights to it and allow you to protect it through legal means.
If registering a trading name sounds like it might be right for your Alabama business, ZenBusiness can take care of the entire process. From initial registration to ongoing compliance, our experts can register your trade name and keep it in good standing.
As noted, businesses elect to use trade names for several reasons. The best name for your purposes will reflect the nature and goals of your business. Additionally, you’ll need to consider a range of marketing considerations, taking your audience’s taste into account.
Another key consideration is your domain name, the address you’ll use for your business’s website. The right trade name could align the title of your business with an available domain, helping establish a unified digital presence. If you’re interested in obtaining the right web address to complement your trade name, Zenbusiness’s domain name service can handle the technical details.
But the most important aspect of choosing a trade name is ensuring that no other business is using it. You don’t want to confuse potential customers or struggle to build your brand in competition with another company.
Additionally, if you do wish to register a trade name, you’ll need to confirm no other business has already done so. As part of your registration application, you’ll need to affirm that “I believe no other person has the right to use the Trademark, Service Mark or Trade Name in Alabama in identical form thereof or in such near resemblance to deceive or cause to be mistaken pursuant to § 8-12-8(a)(4), Code of Alabama 1975.”
How can you determine if a trade name is available in Alabama? There are two state databases to consult:
To choose a trading name with total confidence, hire our team to do the homework. Our DBA registration service includes due diligence regarding existing trade names, so you won’t have to worry about running afoul of state regulations.
We Can Help!
While we don’t currently support DBA registration in Alabama, we can help you create one in states we do support, including: Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas and Utah. We can make creating a DBA name for your business simple.
Disclaimer – The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
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