A DBA “doing business as” name is any name a business uses to operate other than its legal business name. In Alabama, a DBA is called a trade name. You aren’t legally required to register your trade name in Alabama, but doing so keeps other businesses from claiming the name. To register a trade name, you file an Application to Register or Renew Trademark, Service Mark, or Trade Name in Alabama and pay a $30 fee ($31.20 online). We’ll walk you through the steps.
In this article, we’ll cover:
How to Get a DBA in Alabama
The process to register a trade name in Alabama exactly the same as the process to register a trademark. Before you register your trade name, you first need to check its availability and then start using it.
First of all, make sure the name you want to use meets Alabama’s legal requirements. Your Alabama trade name cannot include:
- The word “bank” or “trust,” without a letter from the State Banking Department, or the word “insurance,” without a letter from the Alabama Department of Insurance.
- Words that suggest your business is connected to a government agency, such as “Treasury,” “Police Department,” etc.
- Professional designations such as “engineer” or “lawyer,” unless you have a license in that profession.
- Any words that suggest your business is involved in an illegal activity.
Additionally, you must make sure the trade name is available to use. If another business in Alabama is currently using the name—or if it’s already a registered trade name—your application will be rejected. To find out if the name you want is available, check these databases:
You may also want to search the USPTO Trademark Database to see if the name has been trademarked at the federal level.
Alabama is different from most states in that you can only register a trade name after you start using it. So go ahead and put the name on your business cards, social media, website, or wherever else you promote your business.
The application to register a trade name in Alabama is the same application used to register a trademark or service mark. The main difference between a trade name and a trademark is that a trade name is used to identify the business itself, whereas a trademark is used to promote a particular product. A service mark is similar to a trademark, except that it’s used to promote a service rather than physical goods.
Here’s the information you’ll need to complete the Application to Register or Renew a Trademark, Service Mark or Trade Name in Alabama:
- Business name and physical address
- State where the business was formed
- Business type
- Names and addresses of business partners (for partnerships only)
- Trade name to be registered
- Description of the goods or services the trade name will promote
- How the trade name will be used
- Classification number for the type of goods or services you sell
- Mark type (in this case, trade name)
- Disclaimer and written consent (only if you’re applying for a trade name already in use and have permission from the owner)
- Date the trade name was first used
- Date the trade name was first used in Alabama
- Email address
- 3 specimens which show your business using the trade name (for example, a business card, flyer, or label)
- Signature and contact information of someone authorized to act on behalf of your business
You can submit your application by mail or online, and there is a $30 filing fee ($31.20 if paying by credit card).
Office of Secretary of State
11 South Union Street, Suite 224
Montgomery, Alabama 36130
Alabama Secretary of State
Alabama DBA Vs. Alabama LLC
Registering a DBA keeps other Alabama businesses from registering your trade name, but it doesn’t protect your business from lawsuits or other liabilities. If you’re concerned about protecting your personal assets, you’ll need to form a business entity with liability protection, like a corporation or LLC. LLCs are a popular option for small business owners since they don’t require as much oversight and paperwork as corporations.
While a DBA is sometimes mistaken for a type of business, it’s really just a name used by the business that isn’t the legal name, and any type of business can use one. If you’re a sole proprietor, your legal business name is your first and last name. For LLCs and corporations, the legal business name is the name written on the formation paperwork submitted to the Secretary of State. Any other name your business uses is a trade name.
Businesses often use trade names for rebranding. For example, say you started a donut shop called Harry’s Donuts but decide you want to change course and sell French pastries. You could start using the DBA “Pâtisserie Henri.” If you wanted to have exclusive rights to the name in Alabama, you’d need to register “Pâtisserie Henri” as a trade name.
An Alabama LLC, unlike a DBA, is a business entity that provides limited liability protection to its owners (called members). LLCs are legally separate from their members, so if the business is sued, only the business assets are at risk, not the personal assets of the members. LLCs can—and frequently do—get DBAs. But if you only have a DBA, you’re at risk of losing your personal assets if your business gets sued or defaults on a debt.
If you’re unsure whether to register a DBA or form an LLC, and you care about liability protection, you’re better off forming an LLC. Starting an LLC in Alabama is fairly straightforward, and we can help you get started.Start an LLC
Alabama DBA FAQs
How long does it take to get an Alabama DBA?
The Alabama Secretary of State typically takes between 4 and 6 weeks to process trade name applications.
Is getting a DBA required in Alabama?
No. In Alabama, you can use a trade name without registering it. In fact, you must start using the name before you can register it.
However, it may still be worth it to register your trade name so that it won’t be copied by other businesses. It’s important to note that registering your trade name in Alabama only keeps other businesses from registering it in Alabama. If you want exclusive rights to your name nationwide, you’ll need to apply for a federal trademark.
Learn how to apply for a trademark.
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
Technically no, but it might be good idea. Unlike with an LLC or corporation, you aren’t required to keep your business finances separate when you register a DBA. However, you definitely can open a bank account under a DBA name, and doing so might make it easier to report your profits and expenses during tax time.
Here’s how to open a bank account using a DBA.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
Unless you plan to hire employees, you don’t legally need an EIN for your DBA. However, even if it’s not required, getting an EIN can help you protect yourself from identity theft, since you can give your EIN to third parties instead of your social security number.
How long does trade name registration last in Alabama?
Trade name registration in Alabama lasts 5 years. The renewal fee is also $30.
How can I keep my personal information off the public record?
Sole proprietors often use a trade name to avoid doing business in their own name, but in order to register that trade name, you’ll need to provide a business address that will go on the public record. The best way to protect your personal information is to hire an Alabama registered agent and form an LLC. When you hire Northwest to form your LLC, you can use our address instead of your own wherever allowed, including on your trade name application.