If you run a business under an assumed name in Washington, 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 Washington, 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 online LLC services that can help you take care of the paperwork.
Do You Need a Washington Trade Name?
Not all business entities in Washington 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 Washington 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 Washington, registering your Trade Name does not technically protect it from being used by others. That said, if you are the first to use your name in connection with your business, then you technically have rights to the name.
1) File Your Trade Name with the Washington Business Licensing Service
In Washington, rather than registering your Trade Name with the Secretary of State, you’ll register your name as part of your business license.
Before you register, however, you should make sure your name is available. Because the first person to use a name technically has the rights to that name, you’ll want to avoid infringing on those rights. Your name needs to be distinguishable from other entity names. Washington recommends that you conduct several searches to check your name’s availability.
First, you should run a Business Lookup. This tool lets you examine both Trade Names and general business licenses; you should search your name against both databases. Simply type in the name you’re hoping to use. If an exact match appears, then you’ll need to tweak your name to make it distinct.
Washington also suggests that you run a Corporation Search and that you consult the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. These searches, although a hassle, will ensure that you use a name that is unique to you.
Once you’ve determined that your name is available, you can proceed to register your name. If you’re a new business, you’ll do so as part of your Business License Application. You can also use the online application. Even if you already have a business license, you’ll use this form; simply disregard the other sections. You can use the form to register multiple Trade Names, if you need to.
There is a $5 fee for each name you register, on top of the $19 processing fee. You can pay by card, check, or money order (made payable to the Department of Revenue).
2) Maintaining your Washington Trade Name
Your Washington Trade Name does not expire; it will remain on file with the state until further notice. You will not need to worry about renewing your name.
That said, if you ever need to make changes to your name or stop using it, you will need to alert the state. You can do so by filing a Business Information Change Form. Washington does not charge a fee for canceling your name.
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 Washington Trade Name.