If you run a business under an assumed name in Maine, 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 Maine, 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 Maine Trade Name?
Not all business entities in Maine 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 Maine 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.
Maine actually has a variety of requirements for filing Trade Names. Where you file depends on your entity type.
1) File Your Trade Name with the Maine Secretary of State or Your Municipal Clerk
In Maine, incorporated entities (i.e. corporations, limited liability companies, etc.) are required to register with the Secretary of State. Sole proprietorships, however, should register with their municipal clerk.
In Maine, all trade names must be “distinguishable upon the record” of the Secretary of State. To make sure it’s distinguishable, you need to run a Corporate Name Search. By typing in your desired trade name, you can learn whether or not an incorporated entity has already filed your name. Please note that this search only covers the names of incorporated entities; the state does not regulate trade names filed with the municipal clerk. If the search does not pull up any exact matches, then it’s likely that your name is still available. You can also run a Google search or check out your local yellow pages to determine if your name is in use.
Once you’ve determined that your desired Trade Name is available, you’ll need to file for a Statement of Intention to Do Business with your name. There is a $125 fee for this registration.
For sole proprietorships, this fee and form will be different. We recommend that you contact your local clerk for the forms you’ll need. The local office will be able to offer assistance and advice on all your municipal requirements.
2) Maintaining your Maine Trade Name
Maine’s state-level registration does not expire. However, if there are changes to your business and you no longer want to use your Trade Name, you should file a Termination of your statement.
Like the registration, the renewal fee is $20.
Maintaining your registration as a sole proprietorship may be more complicated. Some municipalities may require renewals. Your local clerk will be able to help.
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 Maine Trade Name.