If you run a business under an assumed name in Hawaii, 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 two easy steps to filing with the state.
In Hawaii, the DBA is actually called 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 cheap LLC services that can help you take care of the paperwork.
Do You Need a Hawaii Trade Name?
Not all business entities in Hawaii 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 Hawaii 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.
In Hawaii, if you own a Trade Name, you can file and register it within the state. This registration is not necessarily required, but it can be helpful because it serves as your claim to the name. This claim can prevent any legal disputes that could disrupt the flow of your business.
1) File Your Trade Name with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
To “own” your Trade Name in Hawaii, you must demonstrate that you have used the name in Hawaii. Unlike other states, which require you to register a name before using it, Hawaii requires you to use the name first, then register it. If more than one business begins to use the same name, Hawaii rules that the first “to make active and continuous use of the name is the person who owns the name.”
To prove that you are the first to use a name, it may be helpful to use documents such as letterhead, bank statements, or similar paperwork that include your Trade Name. The date listed on these documents will help prove when you started using the name.
But first, we recommend that you check that your name isn’t already in use in the state. To do so, the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) recommends that you search the name in several places. First, check out your local yellow pages and Polk’s directories for the city of Honolulu and the counties of Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii. These directories usually list the businesses operating in the state. You can also check with the State Department of Taxation as well as the United States Patent and Trademark Office. For more details, you can check the state’s guide to trade names.
If your name has not already been claimed, then you’re good to proceed and use the name. Once you have documentation that you’ve used the name, you should submit your Application for Registration of Trade Name.
There is a $50 fee for this registration. You can pay by card or by check made payable to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. You are not required to submit this application, but it’s recommended.
2) Maintaining your Hawaii Trade Name
Your initial name registration lasts for five years. After that, you’ll need to submit a renewal with the state. The form is administered online. If you miss this deadline, you could run the risk of losing your name registration. Fortunately, the renewal is easier than the registration; you’ll be able to fill it out quickly. Then you can get back to running your business.
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 Hawaii trade name.