How to Get a Georgia Trade Name
Any name your business operates under that is not its legal business name is a Georgia DBA, or trade name. Georgia sole proprietors, general partnerships, LLCs, and corporations can use a DBA to establish their brand, market their business, and maintain their public image. To use a trade name in Georgia, you must register that name with the Clerk of the Superior Court in the county where your business is located. Registration forms and fees vary by county, but the general process is similar across the state. We'll take you through the steps.
Your Georgia DBA Guide:
What is a Georgia DBA (Trade Name)?
A Georgia DBA, also called a Georgia trade name, is any alternate name your business uses in place of its legal business name. For example, you might own a brewery named Jackson Orchard Ciders LLC but operate under the DBA “Jackson Ciders.” DBA stands for “doing business as.” In some states, DBAs are also referred to as assumed or fictitious names.
According to state law, to use a Georgia DBA, you must register your DBA in the county where you do most of your business or, if you own a corporation, the county where your business address is located (Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA)§ 10-1-490). Conducting business under a Georgia DBA without registering can result in a misdemeanor on your record (OCGA § 10-1-493).
Why Register a DBA in Georgia?
Common reasons to register a Georgia trade name include the following:
You’re a Georgia sole proprietor
A sole proprietor is a small business owned by one person that isn’t registered with the state, and a sole proprietor’s legal business name is the owner’s name. So, a DBA allows a sole proprietor to operate using a more professional or descriptive alias, like “Peachy Keen Web Services” instead of Val Jackson.
To market your business
DBAs are great for marketing—you can use a DBA to re-brand or to start a new business line without forming a whole new business. For example, Peachy Keen Web Services LLC might adopt the DBA “Peachy Keen Tech Repair” after the company expands its services and hires a few more employees.
Popular ways to market with a DBA include:
- On websites and social media accounts
- On signs, business cards, and other marketing materials
- In commercials and advertisements
- On merchandise
- To open a business bank account (Note: some banks will require proof of DBA registration)
- To make and receive payments
To do business under your domain name
Doing business under your domain name will require you to register a DBA if your domain name is different from your legal business name. For example, say that as Peachy Keen Web Services LLC, you buy the domain “PeachyPCs.com” and start advertising as “Peachy PCs.” The company’s domain name is functioning as a DBA, so you’d need to register it as such.
Tip: Registering a Georgia trade name doesn’t guarantee another business won’t use it in another state. For stronger legal rights to your name, you can apply to trademark your DBA name at the federal level.
How to Register a Georgia Trade Name
To legally use a trade name in Georgia, you’ll need to register that name with the Clerk of the Superior Court in the county where your business “is chiefly carried on” or, if you own a corporation, the “legal domicile” of your business (OCGA § 10-1-490). The legal domicile of your business is the business address listed on your formation documents.
While the exact registration process varies from county to county, this typically involves filing a trade name statement of registration and paying a fee, along with publishing a public notice announcing your business’s use of a DBA in a local newspaper. However, before registering, you’ll need to verify the availability of your desired trade name and make sure that your name meets Georgia naming standards.
The first thing you’ll need to do is make sure that the name you want to use isn’t already being used by someone else. To truly cover your bases, you’ll need to check at the federal, state, and county levels.
You can find out if a name is trademarked at the federal level through the US Patent and Trademark Office through the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).
Verifying the availability of your desired name at the county level may involve a little more work because you’ll need to search the trade name records of the Superior Court Clerk in your county. In some counties, you can access trade name records online—for example, the Gwinnet County Superior Court publishes an Index to Trade Names. However, in other counties, you’ll need to call or visit the clerk’s office to get this information.
When choosing a name, you’ll also need to follow Georgia business naming rules. Your trade name must:
- Be unique among registered business names in the state of Georgia and unique among registered trade names in your county.
- Not use a business identifier like “LLC” or “Corp” unless your business is registered as that entity type.
- Not use restricted words or phrases related to the banking, insurance, or educational industries without authorization from a regulating agency.
The uniqueness of your name is something to keep in mind when performing your name availability check. You may think that your desired name is unique because no other business has registered it, but that isn’t necessarily true. Even if two names aren’t exactly the same, they may still be considered “identical” under Georgia law.
Small differences like abbreviating words, adding a suffix, or misspelling a word so that it sounds like another (“days” vs “daze”) do not make a name unique. For example, if Pizza Pie LLC is registered, you cannot register the trade name Pizza & Pie LLC because simply adding a conjunction doesn’t make your desired name sufficiently unique.
For a complete list of Georgia naming rules regarding distinguishable names, see Georgia Administrative Code, Rule 590-7-2-04.
In some counties, the Clerk of the Superior Court’s office provides trade name applicants with a registration form. For example, you’ll fill out an Application to Register A Business To Be Conducted Under A Trade Name in Cobb county and a Trade Name Registration form in Jackson county.
If your county does not provide a form, you may need to draft your own statement of registration based on the guidelines listed in OCGA § 10-1-490.
Your statement of registration must include:
- Your business name and address
- Your business entity type (for example, sole proprietorship, LLC or corporation)
- A statement describing the nature of your business
- Your trade name
Additionally, whether you use a prefabricated form or draft your own registration statement, you’ll need to get your application notarized.
To find out the specific requirements for your business, consult your county clerk’s office. You can access clerk contact information through the state’s Superior Court Clerks Directory.
How you submit your application and how much it will cost will depend on your county.
In many counties, you’ll need to either mail or deliver your application in person, while in others, you can file online. For example, the Fulton county Application to Register a Business to be Conducted Under a Trade Name must be mailed. The DeKalb county Application to Register Business Under a Trade Name, however, must be filed online through eFileGA.
While filing fees vary slightly across all 159 counties, trade name registration runs on the high side in Georgia—you can expect to pay at least $150, but probably more. For example, the filing fee is $158 in Columbia county, $165 in Jackson County, $170 in Clayton and DeKalb counties, and $171 in Cherokee, Cobb, Fulton, and Hall counties.
After you have registered your trade name, Georgia law requires you to publish a public notice of your trade name registration.
Your notice must contain the name of your business (or, if you’re a sole proprietor, your own name), your business address, and the trade name you’ll be operating under. This notice must be printed once a week for two consecutive weeks in the same newspaper used by the county sheriff’s office for legal advertisements.
The publication fee will vary by newspaper and by the length of your notice, but you can expect to pay at least $40. For example, publishing your trade name notice in the Henry Daily Herald in Henry County will cost $40 for a 200-word notice and $60 for a notice over 200 words. To publish a notice in the Columbia County News-Times in Columbia County, you’ll pay $45.
In some counties, the Superior Court Clerk’s office will publish this notice for you. For example, in both DeKalb and Richmond counties, the Clerk of the Superior Court charges an additional $40 on top of the regular filing fee to publish a notice on your behalf.
Filing a DBA Vs Starting a Business
Registering a Georgia DBA might feel a little like starting a new business, but a DBA is just a name. Using a trade name doesn’t change your business structure. If you own an LLC and start using a DBA, your business is still an LLC. This applies to all types of businesses, including sole proprietors.
Since filing a DBA doesn’t create a separate business entity, you must continue to use your legal business name with the government and in legal situations. You’ll need to file your taxes under your legal business name and existing EIN. If you sign contract, you’ll have to list both your legal and DBA name so that your business is clearly identified and so that the contract will hold up in court.
So, how do you start a business in Georgia? There are two ways:
- Register your business with the state. File formation documents with the state and pay a filing fee to form a registered business entity like an LLC, corporation, or nonprofit corporation.
- Sell something. When starting an unincorporated business like a sole proprietorship or general partnership, all you need to do is sell something. This is true in any US state. (Keep in mind that even though you’re not required to register with the state, you may still need to obtain local or state business licenses.)
DBA vs LLC in Georgia
A Georgia LLC is a business entity that is registered with the state and legally separate from its owner(s). Because of this legal separation, an LLC offers its owners (also known as members) liability protection. If you own an LLC, your personal assets—property, vehicles, savings accounts—won’t be put at risk if your business is sued or held accountable for financial debts. This protection applies whether you operate under your LLC’s legal business or a trade name.
In contrast, a sole proprietor doing business under a trade name doesn’t have the same protections because a trade name doesn’t offer the same legal separation between owner and business. If you want liability protection , one way to achieve this goal is to form an LLC. Establishing an LLC in Georgia is a fairly simple process that significantly increases your liability and privacy protection.
Does a Georgia DBA keep my personal information off the public record?
Using a DBA doesn’t keep your personal information completely private—names and addresses provided on trade name filings become part of the public record so that consumers can figure out who they’re doing business with.
The easiest way to keep your information off the public record is to hire a Georgia registered agent like Northwest and form an LLC. As your registered agent, we can list our information instead of yours wherever possible on formation documents to keep your information private.
Protect Your Assets with a Georgia LLCGet Started Today!
Georgia DBA FAQs
How long does it take to get a Georgia DBA?
Processing time varies by county. The state advises that processing may take up to several weeks, but it may take longer. For example, Fulton county promises processing within four weeks.
How much does it cost to get a Georgia DBA?
Filing fees for Georgia DBAs vary across all 159 counties in Georgia, averaging at around $170. On top of your filing fee, you’ll need to shell out at least another $40 for a publication fee, because Georgia requires all businesses using trade names to publish a public notice in a local newspaper.
Is registering a DBA required in Georgia?
Yes. Although you don’t have to register a DBA with the state, registering your trade name at the county level is legally required.
Do I need to register a DBA in every county where I do business?
No. According to Georgia law (OCGA § 10-1-490), you only need to register in the county where your business is “chiefly carried on” or, in the case of a corporation that is the “legal domicile” of your business (i.e., the county where your business address is located).
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
Technically, no. A trade name is like a nickname for your business—it’s not its own separate business entity like an LLC or corporation. So, you don’t need to get a separate bank account for your DBA. If you feel that having a separate bank account will assist with bookkeeping, though, you certainly can.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
It depends, but typically, no. A DBA isn’t a separate business, so getting a new EIN isn’t required. If your business is a multi-member LLC, a corporation, or has employees, you’ll already have a separate EIN and won’t need another. However, if it doesn’t, and you make any changes that put your business into one of these categories, you’ll need to get a new EIN.
How long does trade name registration last in Georgia?
Once you register trade name in Georgia, it’s yours. No renewal is required.
Do I need to re-register my trade name if my business ownership changes?
Yes. If your business experiences a change of ownership, you’ll need to re-register. Depending on the county, you’ll either need to file a new application or amend your original. Additional fees may also apply.
Can I cancel my trade name registration in Georgia?
Yes. If you choose, you can cancel your registration. The cancellation process and fees vary by county, so contact your Superior Court Clerk for more information.
Can I sign contracts under my DBA?
You cannot sign a contract with your DBA alone because your DBA isn’t legal business entity, so the the contract might not hold up in court. However, you should list your DBA alongside your legal name on contracts so that your business is clearly identified to whoever you’re contracting with.
Can I buy a domain name under my DBA?
This depends. Some domain registrars don’t allow businesses to buy domain names under a DBA, while others do. You’ll need to find a registrar that will let you buy a domain name under your DBA if you’re concerned about getting a domain with your legal business name.
What is my legal business name?
Your legal business name is the name listed on your business’s government documents (state filings, tax filings, etc.).
- For formal business entities like LLCs, corporations, and nonprofits, a business’s legal name is the name on its formation documents, which includes the company’s corporate identifier (“Company Name, LLC,” “Company Name, Inc.,” etc.).
- For sole proprietors, a business’s legal name is the owner’s legal name.
- For general partnerships, a business’s legal name is either the partners’ last names or a name the partnership gave itself in a written partnership agreement