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Alabama DBA / Trade Name Registration In 3 Easy Steps

Alabama DBA / Trade Name Registration In 3 Easy Steps

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Alabama DBA / Trade Name Registration In 3 Easy Steps

If you’re planning to start a business in Alabama using a specific name, you may need to register for a business name. Business name registration is commonly referred to as an Alabama DBA, “Doing Business As,” or Fictitious Business Name, but is officially called a Trade Name. 

To see if you need to register for an Alabama Trade Name and steps on how to register, check out our guide.

Related: Guide to starting a business in Alabama

Who needs to register for an Alabama DBA?

When a business wants to operate under a name other than its legal name, many states require it to register its new business name. In Alabama, this is usually optional, but practically most businesses will register.

Sole proprietorships and partnerships are the most common entity to want to register a business name.  These two entities are not really entities at all.  Instead, they are individuals doing business.  Commonly, the legal name of a sole proprietor or partnership is the owner’s full first and last name.  That works for many self-employed business owners, however, many need to operate under a distinct and brandable business name.

For example, if Carl Smith starts an inflatable rental business operating under his legal name, he doesn’t need to register. However, if Carl decides to name his business Smith Bouncy Houses, he will need to register.

The reason a sole proprietorship and partnership would want to register their business name is it:

  • Proves the existence of the business.
  • Banks, merchant processors, and vendors may require one.
  • There is some protection from other Alabama businesses registering the name.

Related: How to form a sole proprietorship in Alabama

A corporation and Limited Liability Company won’t typically register for an Alabama DBA since a unique entity name is created during the entity formation process. However, some will want to register for a DBA if they have another business or brand name they want to operate in addition to the legal name of the business. This can allow multiple businesses to operate with the liability protection of an Alabama corporation or Limited Liability Company without having to form another entity.

What are the steps to file a DBA in Alabama?

Step 1: Verify Name Availability

To register your DBA, you will first want to be sure the name you want is available.  Before registering a business name, you will want to first do an Alabama business search to verify that no other business is using it. 

Step 2: Obtain the Trade Name Registration Form

After deciding on a name, you will want to either file online or download the Application to Register or Renew Trademark, Service Mark, or Trade Name form from the Lands & Trademarks Department of Alabama Secretary of State.  This is the same form you would use to file a Trademark or Service Mark.

Questions on the form include:

  • Applicant name
  • Entity type (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, LLC, etc.)
  • Office address
  • Name of general partners (if applicable)
  • DBA being registered
  • Description of the goods, services, or business being provided under the business name
  • How the name will be used in commerce
  • Classification number (industry the business is in – see schedule in the form)
  • Disclaimer (if applicable)
  • Names of other entities that can use the name
  • Date the fictitious name was first used

Three specimens must also be submitted showing how the name will be used in business. Specimens can be original or copies of materials such as business cards, brochures, flyers, labels, decals, ads, and other proof you have been operating under the name you are applying for.

The address to mail the form and payment is:
Alabama Office of Secretary of State
Trademarks Division
11 South Union Street, Suite 224
Montgomery, Alabama 36130

Step 3: Submit the Form

The Trade Name application form needs to be signed, but should only be done in the presence of a notary public. 

Once the form is filled out and notarized, send a check for the $30 filing fee made payable to the Alabama Secretary of State.

If you would prefer to have a someone else research DBA name availability and file the required forms, Bizee and LegalZoom offer a DBA registration service for $99, plus state fees.

Alabama DBA FAQs

How much does an Alabama Trade Name cost?

The cost to register a Trade Name in Alabama is $30 and is renewed every 5 years.

Are there any naming restrictions when filing an Alabama DBA?

In Alabama, banking-related words like Bank, Banking, Banc, Savings & Loan, etc., are not allowed unless approval has been granted by the Alabama Banking Commissioner’s Office. Insurance-related words are also not allowed, and words using a professional designation such as Engineer, Attorney, and Accountant are prohibited unless the business has professional licensing from the state.

Names that contain words similar to government agencies, such as the Department of Revenue, Treasury, FBI, etc., are also prohibited.

A Trade Name also can’t use a business entity suffix that is different from the type of entity. For example, a sole proprietorship can’t use LLC or corporation in its name.

Can someone use my business name after registering an Alabama DBA name?

While registering your Trade Name will keep someone else from registering the exact same name in Alabama, it does very little to stop someone else from operating a business under that name in other states.

If stopping others from using your business name is important, you can protect it through a federal trademark through the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Learn more about trademarking a business name

Does a DBA need an EIN?

An EIN or Employer Identification Number (also informally called a business tax ID number) is a unique nine-digit number that some businesses will register for through the Internal Revenue Department (IRS). An EIN is required for partnerships, corporations, multi-member LLCs, or any business that has employees.

Sole proprietorships and single-member LLCs without employees can use the owner’s social security number to identify the business.

There is no cost to get an EIN when registering directly from the IRS.

Related: How to register for an EIN in Alabama

What is the difference between an Alabama Trade Name and a business license?

These are actually two different business registrations. In addition to the Alabama Trade Name registration, most businesses will also need a business license. The licenses a business will need vary depending on what the business does and local registration requirements.

Related: What business licenses are needed in Alabama?

Author

  • Greg Bouhl

    With over two decades as an entrepreneur, educator, and business advisor, Greg Bouhl has worked with over 2,000 entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses. Fed up with clients finding and acting on inaccurate and outdated information online, Greg launched StartUp101.com to be a trusted resource for people starting a business.

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Alabama DBA / Trade Name Registration In 3 Easy Steps

Alabama DBA / Trade Name Registration In 3 Easy Steps

2 Responses

  1. Hi Greg! Your articles have been so helpful to me. I was wondering, when you say to submit, “proof you have been operating under the name you are applying for” does this mean that you should be operating under your business name for a while before you apply for the DBA? Just a bit confused if I should go ahead and apply for a sole proprietorship and DBA before or after starting with clients. Thank you!

    1. Hi Claire – This is unique and yes, before you can register a DBA you have to be using the name. This makes the name verification especially important, because you don’t want to go through all of the work (like designing a logo, making business cards, etc.) and then be told someone else has already registered it.

      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.
      Greg

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