If you want to add a trade name in Washington State and operate using a different name from that used to register or incorporate the business, you have to follow the process a business must undergo to register a new name. The new name (called a fictitious name or trade name) must be registered, and the entire process is usually called filing for a DBA (Doing Business As).

Assumed or Trade Names

Filing a DBA allows individuals to create business names that do not feature their personal names. If it is a corporation or limited partnership, they can create and operate with business names different from that registered with the Secretary of State.

A DBA name or fictitious names are business names that are different from personal names, names of partners or the legally registered name of the corporation or LLC. DBA names can also be called assumed names or trade names.

Registration of Assumed Names

Registration of assumed names can be done at the local, state, or local and state government levels but is not required at the county level of government. If Joseph Smith opens a painting business and names it “Joseph Smith's Painting,” it must be registered as a DBA name with the relevant government agency since it is considered to be an assumed name.

Also, if “Sam's Hot Dogs LLC” wants to operate as “Best Hot Dogs in Town,” the owners must file for a DBA. Washington law stipulates that all enterprises that want to conduct business operations using other names that are not legally registered ones must file a DBA.

Benefits of a DBA

A DBA allows businesses to enter into agreements/contracts, open bank accounts, and conduct other business activities using the new name. It is important to note that trade name registration does not offer any form of name protection. The right of usage belongs to the first entity that uses the name in connection with its business.

Since trademarks are governed by federal law, even if individuals are able to register their business similar to well-known brand's such as McDonald's, they should expect a legal battle if they try to use that name in transactions.

Setting Up an Additional Trade Name

Depending on your business' location, you are mandated to register the DBA name either through the state government or county clerk's office; however, not all states stipulate that entities register their DBAs or fictitious names. If your business is in Washington, you must file through the Washington State Department of Licensing.

To file a DBA, you must undertake a business name search to determine the availability of the desired name. This can be done on the search page of the Business Licensing Service website. This search helps you check that the name you want to use hasn't been registered by another entity. If it is, you must pick another since you can't register that name.

Completing Paperwork

When completing paperwork for a DBA, you must indicate the names and contact information of all partners/business owners, answer questions related to the nature of the company's business activities, as well as names, trade names, and type of entity being filed for. However, filing a DBA to get a trade name doesn't change how the business is taxed.

Establishing a Sole Proprietorship

Establishing sole proprietorships in Washington doesn't require the filing of legal documents with the state government. It requires four steps:

  • Choose a business name.
  • File for a trade name.
  • Obtain zoning clearance, permits, and licenses.
  • Obtain an EIN (Employer Identification Number) – The IRS issues an EIN (nine digits) for tax reporting purposes.

Sole proprietors can use a trade name or their given name. If the sole proprietor plans on using a trade name or assumed business name, Washington state law stipulates that the name must be different from the names of other companies on record. It is also a good idea to choose names that are unique from other registered businesses to avoid trademark issues related to federal and common law.

Filing a trade name requires you to go to the state's Business Licensing service to fill a Business License Application with a filing fee of $5 - $24. Washington provides a list of all occupations and professions that require licenses for a sole proprietorship.

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