A trade name is the name the company uses to present itself to the public. The trade name may differ from the actual company name. In the case where a company uses a business name and a trade name, both names should be registered, unless the trade name is part of the company name (or a shortened form). The trade name can be a registered LLC, a corporation name or even a DBA.
You will need to determine if you are going to register your company as an LLC (limited liability company), a corporation or simply with a DBA license (doing business as). The registration method you choose will dictate the steps you take after registration. For small companies, filing a DBA is all that is necessary. Mid-sized companies may want to file as an LLC to limit liability to the business owner.
Filing Trade Name
If you choose to file a DBA (known as a fictitious name), a simple trip to your local county clerk is all that you will need to file your company trade name. There is a fee (between $25 and $35, as of 2010). The form is simple and includes your personal information as well as the DBA name you've chosen. This DBA is not protected from use by other entities and is typically only valid in the county in which it is filed. You can, however, visit the United States Copyright Office and file a copyright claim for any logo affiliated with your DBA name if you created the logo. For LLC and corporation names, you will need to visit the IRS website and fill out a business registration for a tax ID number under your trade name.
Trademark registration is a lengthy process and must be undertaken by visiting the website of the United States Trademark and Patent Office. Trademark registration is required for protection of all business trade name elements for a corporation. Forms must be initiated to register a trademark for any variation of the trade name you'll be using and any graphic symbols that will represent your company trade name. This is not required for a DBA business or an LLC.
If you register your business under a DBA, you are required to give public notice that you are doing business under a fictitious name. This notice is nothing more than an ad placed in a paper local to the county where you file your DBA. In some cases, the county clerk will file this notice for you for an additional fee.