If you are a business owner in Georgia, you may have heard about trade names and wondered if you need one, and why you would need one.
According to Georgia law, every person, firm, or partnership that conducts business under a trade name, partnership name, or other name which does not disclose the individual ownership of said business venture, shall file a notice of their use of such trade name. You may also hear a trade name referred to as a fictitious name, or a DBA, which stands for “doing business as.”
The idea is that if you are conducting business under a trade name other than your own—regardless of whether the operation is a sole proprietorship, a partnership, corporation, or LLC—that does not identify the ownership of the business, you need to put the community on notice of your use of that name.
Say your name is Joe Smith, and you are a plumber. You operate your business as the sole proprietor, so there is no corporation or LLC involved. You conduct and market your business under the name Joe's Plumbing Service. Does this name identify you as the owner of the business? There are a lot of Joe's in the world, and the community and your clients would not know from hearing your trade name that you, Joe Smith, are the owner of Joe's Plumbing Services. This is why you need to register your trade name.
Here's another example—suppose you own a corporation called Smith Enterprises, Inc. However, you carry out your business under the name Chairs for Less, because you focus on selling chairs at a discount and want to do business under that name. The name Chairs for Less does not disclose that Smith Enterprises, Inc., is the entity operating the business. Therefore, you must register your trade name Chairs for Less.
To register a trade name, you will file with the superior court clerk in the county in which your business is principally conducted, if you are a sole proprietor, or in the county where the business's legal domicile is located, if it is a corporation or LLC.
When you go to register the trade name, you will have to provide information such as…
- The name or names and addresses of the person or firm owning and carrying on the business.
- The nature of the business being done by the firm or person.
- The trade name used.
The notice of this filing is also to be published in the newspaper in which the sheriff's advertisements are printed once a week for two weeks. Your court clerk may collect fees for the publication and sent it to the paper, or they may direct you to contact the paper directly.
Note that the requirement to register trade names does not apply to corporations doing business under their corporate names, to limited partnerships doing business under their limited partnership names, or to limited liability companies doing business under their limited liability company names which have been filed for record under state law.
What's the downside of not registering the trade name of your business? To put it simply, you or the entity can be found guilty of a misdemeanor. You or the entity can also be assessed court costs in legal cases against the business where there was a failure to register a trade name.
If you want to read the law on this, you can find it at O.C.G.A. 10-1-490 through 10-1-493.
One final point to keep in mind: note that registering a trade name does not give you any rights to that name and does not mean that you have legal rights to use it. To protect the name, you'll need to look into obtaining a servicemark or trademark, and obviously ensure that others don't have the legal rights to that name.
Registering a trade name is a generally easy task that a business can do without a lawyer. But, if you have business law needs, we do invite you to contact us to see if it might be a good fit for us to work together. Call The Beck Law Firm, LLC at (678) 344-5342 to discuss your situation.
If you are just starting out on your new business venture, you can download out free Guide to Starting a Business in Georgia for more information.