One of the most exciting decisions when you start a new business is deciding upon the name of the business. You will, of course, be using that name in so many ways: on business cards and letterhead, in marketing materials and social media, on signage if you have a physical location, and many more. Over time, that business name will develop a reputation (hopefully a good one!) and the value of that name will increase.
What is a trade name?
A trade name is the name under which you will do business. Sometimes a trade name is referred to as a “business name,” a “fictitious name,” a “Doing Business As” name, or simply a “DBA.” It can be, but does not need to be, the same name as the legal name of your business.
Registering a trade name
Registering your trade name with a government agency can benefit you as the business owner by helping to protect its growing value. Different rights and benefits come with registration through different state and federal agencies.
At the state level in Arizona, registration of a trade name is done with the Arizona Secretary of State. Registering your trade name provides some proof of the date you began to use the name in commerce and puts others who may want to use the same trade name on “record notice” that the name is not available for them. Likewise, your registration with the Secretary of State causes the agency to block any future registration with the agency of the same trade name by someone else.
Registration of a trade name in Arizona also brings statutory benefits to the business owner in the event another person or business uses the same name. Among other things, these benefits include:
- the exclusive right to use the trade name;
- allowing you to use a certificate of registration as evidence of the fact of registration in legal proceedings;
- increasing the likelihood of being able to obtain an injunction against another person’s use or infringement of the trade name; and
- the ability to assert statutory claims that may require the offending person to pay to your business non-statutory damages, statutory damages, and the cost of the lawsuit.
- Registration with the Arizona Secretary of State lasts for 5 years, and may be renewed for successive 5-year periods.
Registration through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) at the federal level is beyond the scope of this article. Information regarding federal-level registration may be found at the USPTO’s website. It is worth noting, however, that registration through the USPTO allows you to use the “®” symbol to put others on notice of the registration.
Do I have to register?
Registering trade names is NOT required at either the state or federal level. And if you choose not to register your trade name, there are state laws that may still provide minimal protection for your trade name. However, registration is required to obtain many of the statutory benefits listed above.
If you progress to the point that you want to protect a logo, symbol, or other mark associated with your business, you will want to investigate securing a trademark registration, which may or may not include your business trade name. Trademark registration can be secured at both the state and federal levels as well.
Meeting with an attorney before you begin to use your chosen trade name, to understand Arizona’s registration requirements and process, is a smart step. The Law Office of Wendy Anderson is familiar with Arizona’s laws, and we look forward to assisting you as you start and grow your business.
NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR GENERAL INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES. IT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE, NOR DOES IT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP. EACH SITUATION IS DIFFERENT. YOU SHOULD CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY TO DETERMINE YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS, REMEDIES, AND DUTIES.
By Wendy M. Anderson, Esq.
Law Office of Wendy Anderson, PLLC
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