If you run a business under an assumed name in Georgia, you may want to set up a DBA. Short for “Doing Business As,” a DBA serves as an alternate title for your business. Often, a DBA is the name customers will use to refer to your company. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about DBAs: who needs one, who doesn’t, and the one easy step to filing with the state.
In Georgia, the DBA is actually referred to as a “Trade Name.” Essentially, they’re the same concept. “Trade Name” is just the terminology used by the state. For consistency, we’ll call it a Trade Name throughout the rest of this guide.
NOTE: Keep in mind that filing a trade name will not give your business protection through the corporate veil like an LLC will. If this is something you want or need, don’t fret, there are many online LLC services that can help you take care of the paperwork.
Do You Need a Georgia Trade Name?
Not all business entities in Georgia need a Trade Name. Ordinarily, a business needs a Trade Name when the name of their business differs from the name registered with the state.
So let’s say that Lauren operates a sole proprietorship; her legal business formation documents list her full name as the legal owner of the business. But if she wants to run her shop under the name Sew Sweet Creations, she’d need to file a Trade Name in order to use that name. A Trade Name is also useful for corporations which want to establish additional businesses or locations with a name that’s different from the Corporation name.
Limited liability companies, nonprofit corporations, and corporations operating exclusively under the name on file with the state usually do not need a Trade Name. They may choose to use one if they want to establish a new product line or chain of businesses under their original parent company.
A Georgia Trade Name does present a few advantages. While it doesn’t offer any specific legal protections or tax incentives, a Trade Name allows you to get a business bank account. You can also give your customers peace of mind—most people are more comfortable writing a check to a business than an individual.
Georgia’s Secretary of State handles the formation documents for most businesses; however, you will not register your Trade name with them.
1) File Your Trade Name with the Georgia Superior Court
Instead of registering with the Secretary of State, all Georgia businesses which plan to use a Trade Name must register that name with their local clerk from the Superior Court. Your registration statement will alert the county that you plan to operate under that name. You can find your local clerk’s office here.
However, registering a name does not protect that name or give you exclusive rights to it. To do that, you would need to apply for a trademark with the state. Otherwise, there can be multiple businesses operating in the state under the same trade name.
On that subject, the Trade Name you register with the state cannot infringe on any names that are reserved with the state. These names include names of incorporated entities, trademarks, and names of unformed businesses that have filed a reservation. To determine which names are already claimed within the state, you should run a Business Name Search. Simply type in your desired Trade Name; if an exact match pops up, you’ll need to tweak your name to make it different. But if the results are different from yours, then it’s likely your name is free to use.
As a precaution, we also recommend you search the trademark database. This tool is especially helpful if you plan to register for a trademark (and thus reserve your name), but it also ensures that your business name doesn’t infringe on any marks filed with the state. Finally, you may want to run a Google search of your business name. This will let you know if any businesses are using that name. If you find that another entity is using your name, too, you may want to make some changes so you can have a unique name that truly stands out.
The fees for this registration vary depending on your county. To determine how much you’ll need to pay, we recommend you contact your clerk.
For a full guide on Trade Name laws in Georgia, check out the state’s Trade Name guide.
Most states require a renewal of your Trade Name; however, Georgia does not require a renewal. The initial registration is sufficient.
Need Help Filing your Trade Name?
If this process sounds like a hassle, you can get help with setting up your business’s name with a service like Legalzoom. They make the process simple: you simply provide them with the necessary information about your company, and they’ll fill out the paperwork so you don’t have to. The process is both easy and affordable, letting you focus on running your business.
Your name is an important part of your business, but keeping compliant with state requirements can be tricky! We hope this guide made it quick and easy to set up your Georgia trade name.