Colorado law says if you don't want to do business under your own name, you can use a trade name, otherwise called a DBA, or "doing business as" name. If, say, Denver plumber John Jones wants to call his plumbing company Awesome Plumbing, Jones has to file a DBA with Colorado's secretary of state. Corporations and other business entities using a trade name also have to register the DBA in Colorado.
Why Use a Trade Name?
Before you decide to register a DBA in Colorado, ask yourself if you need one. Some people get along fine with their own name, particularly if they're offering creative or personal services. Most writers, for instance, publish under their legal name, no DBA required.
If, however, you think "Landscaping Overnight" will draw customers better than, say, "Frances Brown," then you need to file for a DBA. Customers may think a trade name sounds more professional and established than your personal name does.
Businesses that file with Colorado's secretary of state to incorporate choose a business name as part of the process. However, they can also adopt a DBA for a new line of business. For example, if Terrific Chocolates decides to launch a separate line of treats, they can do it by registering Dark Chocolate Delights as a trade name.
Who Can Register a DBA In Colorado?
The secretary of state's website lists who can register a DBA in Colorado. The list includes
- Sole proprietorships
- General partnerships.
- Estates and trusts.
- Limited liability companies.
- Limited partnerships.
How to Register A DBA
The secretary of state's website has links to online forms for the various businesses and legal entities who might want a trade name. In Colorado, you have to file online. The form for a sole proprietors, for example, requires the following information:
- Business address and, if different, the mailing address.
- The trade name you want.
- A description of the type of business you'll be doing under your DBA.
- The date you want the name to take effect, if it's not going to be immediate.
Once you register your DBA, anyone can look it up online and find the names of the person or entity using it. That's one of the reasons for requiring registration so that owners can't hide their identity behind a fake name.
DBA Cost in Colorado
Government fees aren't eternal, rising or reducing as state officials or lawmakers change the rules. At the time of writing, the fee for submitting a trade name is $20, with an extra $10 fee if you have to withdraw, change or correct it later. DBAs in Colorado only last one year, so you'll have to pay $5 annually to keep your rights to the name.
Trade Name and Trademark
Even if you register a DBA in Colorado, that doesn't stop another business or individual registering the same DBA. Unlike corporate names, which have to be distinct from each other, the secretary of state won't object if John Smith uses the identical trade name as Judy Jones. If Jones' business cheats its customers, it's up to the customers or their attorneys to look up the trade name online and figure which owner is the one they want to sue.
To protect your trade name, you'll have to look at other avenues, such as making it your trademark. You can register with the state or the federal government, provided your name qualifies for trademark protection:
- If someone's already claimed the name as a trademark, you probably can't register it.
- Trademark registries often reject generic names such as "Great Plumbing" or "Pretty Dresses."
Figuring out whether your DBA qualifies for trademark protection may require a lawyer who specializes in the field.
Fraser Sherman has written about every aspect of business: how to start one, how to keep one in the black, the best business structure, the details of financial statements. He's also run a couple of small businesses of his own. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is frasersherman.com