Puerto Rico DBA
How to Get a Trade Name in Puerto Rico
A Puerto Rico DBA, also referred to as a trade name, is an alternative name that your business can use in place of its legal business name. All types of businesses are able to get a DBA, including Puerto Rico sole proprietors, general partnerships, LLCs, and corporations. A DBA is just like your legal business name. You’ll be able to use it on business cards, social media accounts, company merchandise, print and TV advertising, or a business bank account. Puerto Rico does not require a trade name to be registered in order to use it, but doing so grants a business a stronger legal claim to the name. Puerto Rico trade names cost $150 to register and last for 10 years. We'll show you how to register a trade name in Puerto Rico.
Your Puerto Rico DBA Guide:
What is a Puerto Rico DBA?
A Puerto Rico DBA (doing business as), or trade name, is like an alias for your business. Every business has a legal business name, and a DBA simply allows a business to use a different name to operate. Whether your business is a billion dollar corporation or a sole proprietorship, you can register a DBA. While Puerto Rico does not require a trade name to be registered in order to use it, P.R. Laws Title 10 § 225(b) gives the registered owner of the trade name a legal claim to the name. A trade name lets you do almost everything you’d do under your legal business name, including:
- Creating websites and social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, etc…)
- Advertising on billboards, print media, radio, television, etc…
- Engaging with customers on business cards, letterhead, hats, coffee mugs, T-shirts, etc…
- Opening a business bank account to keep your sales organized and write checks to vendors
- Setting up a point-of-sale system to take payments from customers
Can I sign contracts with my DBA?
Not exclusively, no. You should sign contracts with both your legal and DBA name. If you don’t list the legal name of your business, your contract may not hold up in court. You’ll also want to include your DBA on the contract to make sure that the connection between your business and your DBA is clear.
Why Register a DBA in Puerto Rico?
There are a number of reasons a business owner would want register a Puerto Rico trade name, including:
You’re a Sole Proprietor
Because sole proprietorships aren’t registered with the state, there’s no legal distinction between the owner and their business. Because of this, a sole proprietor’s legal business name is their name (ex: Tom Scott). If you’re a sole proprietor and you want to do business under a name like “ABC Carpentry,” but you don’t want to register a formal business (like an LLC), you’ll need to get a trade name.
To Expand Your Business
DBAs are especially useful when you want to rebrand or launch a new product line but don’t want the expense and mountain of paperwork associated with starting a new business. For example, if you have a San Juan walking tour business that is organized as an LLC, and you want to start offering moonlit booze cruises, a DBA can help you do both without having to form a whole new business. You’ll be able to advertise your new venture with a its own name, a website, and marketing materials,even business cards, all without having to shell out $250 for a new LLC (not to mention the $150 Puerto Rico annual report). (However, you may still need to apply for new licenses or permits if you’re offering new products or services.) A DBA costs nothing if you don’t want to register it, but if you want legal rights to use your booze cruise business name, you’ll pay $150 for a 10 year registration.
You Conduct Business Using Your Domain Name
If you’re only using your domain as an address for your company’s website, you won’t need a DBA. However, if you’re using your domain name as a business name (for example, if customers are writing checks addressed to your domain name) you’ll need to register your DBA.
How to Register a Puerto Rico DBA
To register your Puerto Rico DBA, you must file an online Trade Name Registration form. Because Puerto Rico trade name filings can only be completed online, you’ll need to create an online account with the Puerto Rico Trademark Office. Once you register your trade name, you’ll need to publish a notice in a local newspaper. We’ll go over what you’ll need to do.
Puerto Rico law prohibits businesses from using any name that is already registered by another business, so you’ll need to check to make sure your desired name is available and not too similar to any other business name. Your first step will be to search Puerto Rico’s Trademark Office business name database.
Remember, Puerto Rico doesn’t require trade names to be registered in order to use them. This means another business could be using your desired trade name without ever having registered it. Under Puerto Rico law (P.R. Laws title 10 § 225b), prior use of a trade name grants usage rights. If a business can prove that they’ve been using the name, even unregistered, they could claim the name as theirs. A thorough online search helps to make sure your preferred DBA name isn’t in use.
Note: Registering a Puerto Rico trade name doesn’t guarantee another business won’t use it. You can apply to trademark your DBA name at the federal level for stronger legal rights to your name.
Puerto Rico’s Department of State will reject your DBA application if your business name is the same or confusingly similar to any other registered business in the territory (P.R. Laws Title 10 § 225c). Puerto Rico’s general business naming rules also apply. This means your DBA can’t:
- Contain the word “corporation”, “Inc.”, “limited”, “limited liability company”, “LLC,” or any abbreviation of an entity identifier unless the business is that type of entity.
- Use words like “university,” “bank,” “trust,” or “cooperative,” and others unless your business is actually involved in the named activity.
- Use words associated with government entities, like “police,” or “fire department.”
Puerto Rico only accepts online trade name registrations. You’ll file with Puerto Rico’s Online Trademark and Trade Name Registry System by selecting the “Register a Trade Name” option from the menu. Trade names cost $150 and last for 10 years.
The information you will need in order to successfully complete trade name registration is:
- Name of person applying, address, and email address
- Physical address of business
- Mailing address of business
- Who is filling out trade name registration (owner, attorney, company official)
- Trade name being registered
- Nature of business (ex: historical walking tours)
- Specify if the trade name is already “in use,” or if it is intended for future use. If you’re already using your trade name, you’ll need to specify the date you first used it and upload a digital copy of proof of its use. The maximum file size is 7MB, and .jpeg, .pdf, .png, and .tiff formats are accepted.
You’ll also be asked to upload a digital copy of one of the following documents:
- Municipal License
- Usage Permit
- Merchant Registration Certificate
Before you can finish your application, you’ll be asked to upload a signed and notarized copy of a Sworn Statement form. The purpose of the the statement is to have on record that the business is entitled to use the trade name in Puerto Rico, and that the owner of the business has applied for or obtained the necessary permits and licenses to operate the business.
Puerto Rico DBAs are treated like trademarks (P.R. Laws Title 10, § 225d). This means that once approved, the Department of State will email you a receipt confirming trade name registration. You’ll need to then publish in a local newspaper or periodical (online or in print) your intent to use the trade name (P.R. Laws Title 10, § 223e).
The notice needs to include the name of the applicant, address, and the trade name being registered. Publication allows for anyone else who may be using the name or opposes the name to have 30 days from date of publication to notify the DOS. The cost of publication varies depending on the newspaper, but you only need to publish in one issue.
Filing a DBA vs Starting a Business in Puerto Rico
Filing a DBA may feel like starting a business, but there’s a big difference between the two. A DBA is a nickname for a business. Getting one doesn’t create a business or change the structure of your existing business. A sole proprietor who registers a DBA is still a sole proprietor. They’re just operating under an alternative name.
There are two ways to start a business in Puerto Rico. Either you sell something, or you register your business with the Department of State. Here’s how that works:
- Sell something
The easiest way to start a business is to sell something. Any product or service that you sell— whether it’s $5 jars of honey at the farmer’s market or $100 an hour web design services—means you’re in business. If you own the business by yourself, you’re a sole proprietor. If you’ve got a business partner or partners, you’re in a general partnership. Depending on what kind of service or product your business offers, you might need to obtain state or local business licenses.
- Register your business with the state
Starting a formal business entity like a Puerto Rico LLC or a Puerto Rico corporation requires you to register your business with Puerto Rico’s Department of State. You’ll need to file formation documents (Certificate of Formation for an LLC, Certificate of Incorporation for a corporation) and pay a fee ($250 for an LLC, $150 for a corporation).
DBA vs. Puerto Rico LLC
While a DBA is only a name, a Puerto Rico LLC is a formal business entity. A DBA can be used by an LLC to operate under a different business name, but registering a DBA does not change the structure of an LLC. An LLC can provide its owners with limited liability protection because in the eyes of the law, it’s a legally separate entity from its owners. It’s this separation that protects business owners’ personal assets in the event that the LLC gets sued or goes bankrupt. Liability protection means that only the assets of the business will be at risk of seizure, not the personal assets of the owners(house, 401k, savings accounts, cars).
If you’re a Puerto Rico sole proprietor and you just want to do business under a different name, a DBA is just what you need. But if you want an entity that will allow you to do business under a different name and protect your personal assets, a Puerto Rico LLC is what you want. Northwest can help you get one.
START A PUERTO RICO LLCGet Started Today!
Puerto Rico DBA FAQs
Is registering a DBA required in Puerto Rico?
No. Puerto Rico law allows anyone to use a different name for their business without registering that name. However, registering a trade name in Puerto Rico grants your business a stronger legal claim to the name.
How much does it cost to register a DBA in Puerto Rico?
How long does it take to get a Puerto Rico trade name?
DBA processing takes between 1-3 weeks depending on the number of applications.
Does Puerto Rico have a publishing requirement?
Yes. Trade names, once accepted, need to be published once in a local newspaper or periodical (online is fine).
Can I change my trade name registration in Puerto Rico?
Yes. You’ll need to log into your Online Trademark and Trade Name Registry System account to make the necessary changes. It costs $10 to update your trade name information.
How long does trade name registration last in Puerto Rico?
How do I renew my Puerto Rico DBA?
You can renew your trade name anytime in the year before the name expires. Renewals can be filed through the Online Trademark and Trade Name Registry System. Trade names cost $150 to renew.
Can I cancel my trade name in Puerto Rico?
Yes. You can cancel your trade name by mail. Write a letter stating that you wish to abandon the name. Make sure to include your legal business name. Mail the letter, along with a check for $5, to Puerto Rico’s Trademark Office, P.O. Box 9023271, San Juan, PR 00902-3271.
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
No. Because your trade name isn’t a business itself, a separate bank account isn’t required. However, you can open a business bank account for your DBA to keep your profits organized for accounting purposes if you want.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
Nope. Your DBA won’t need a separate EIN because it’s not a separate business, just an alias for your existing business.
How many DBAs can I register in Puerto Rico?
There’s no limit to the number of trade names your business can register, but you must submit a separate form and fee for each one that you register.
What is the legal name of my business?
Your business’s legal business name is the name listed on your business’s government documents— i.e., on state and tax filings.
For formal business entities like LLCs, corporations, and nonprofits, a business’s legal name is the name listed on its formation documents, including the company’s entity identifier (“Company Name, LLC,” “Company Name, Inc.,” etc.).
For sole proprietors, a business’s legal name is its owner’s legal name.
For general partnerships, a business’s legal name is either the partners’ last names or a name the partnership has given itself in a written partnership agreement.