One of the most important parts of any business is its name. Your limited liability company’s name is your first impression with prospective clients, whether they hear about your business by word of mouth, drive past a billboard advertising your business on the freeway, or if they stumble upon your business as a result of a Google search.
One way to change your business name — or to add an additional name that your LLC can use interchangeably — is by filing a “doing business as” name application, commonly known as a DBA. In Louisiana, a DBA for an LLC is referred to as a trade name. Rather confusingly, DBAs and trade names are two entirely different things in this state, as DBAs are only for sole proprietorships and general partnerships, while trade names are for formally registered entities, like LLCs and corporations.
There are many reasons to get a trade name — from marketing a new product line to granting a sole proprietorship the ability to use an assumed name — so this article will walk you through the process of registering a trade name for your Louisiana LLC.
What Is a Trade Name?
To begin, let’s quickly run down what exactly a trade name is. One point of confusion we often hear about is that a trade name is not a business entity, like an LLC, corporation, sole proprietorship, general partnership, etc. Instead, you can think of a trade name as an add-on feature of sorts.
The trade name allows you to create alternate business names for your entity, which you can then use interchangeably with your LLC’s official business name. In addition, for informal business entities that don’t have exclusive business names (like sole proprietorships and general partnerships), a trade name can be a great way to inject some additional professionalism into a business venture — although, in this state, a trade name for an informal business name is called a DBA.
But let’s talk strictly about LLCs, shall we? Why would an LLC want an additional business name? There are several potential reasons, although they obviously vary considerably depending on what your business does. One popular reason is to differentiate a new product line from a company’s existing offerings.
Let’s say that you own a business called “Fine Footwear, LLC” that produces high-end shoes. If you decide to also start a new product line that sells inexpensive flip-flop sandals, you might want a way to differentiate this brand from your core business. In this circumstance, you could register a trade name for “Flip-Flops by Fine Footwear,” and you can use this name to market your new products, while your original product line remains unaffected if your sandal side business fails.
It could also be helpful if you decide to expand your local business into a new market. For instance, if you own a Louisiana-based plumbing business called “New Orleans Plumbing,” and you want to expand beyond New Orleans, you can register a trade name for “Lafayette Plumbing” and use that name in the Lafayette market.
The state of Louisiana includes more protections for trade names than most states do because, in most states, there is no exclusivity for a trade name. If another business decides that they want to use your trade name as their own name, many states allow them to do just that. However, because Louisiana groups trade names in together with trademarks, this state provides more legal protection than most, and provides exclusive rights for an assumed name.
How to Get a Trade Name for a Louisiana LLC
The process for obtaining a trade name in Louisiana starts with a business name search to make sure the trade name you want to register isn’t already claimed by another business. Once you’ve determined the name’s eligibility, you can fill out the Application for Reservation or Trade Name, Trademark, or Service Mark.
This document requires the following information: the new trade name you’re registering, your LLC’s official business name, your name, your address, your phone number, your signature, and the date. You can file this form online, by mail, by fax, or by hand to the Secretary of State’s office, along with your $25 filing fee.
Online filings typically take 1-2 business days, while paper filings take 3-7 business days. If you’re in a big hurry, you can submit your form in person. This gives you the option to pay a $30 expediting fee for 24-hour service or a $50 fee for immediate service.
Then, you’ll fill out the Application to Register Trade Name, Trademark, or Service Mark. This form requires the parish or county where your business was originally registered, your LLC’s official business name, your LLC’s street address, the trade name you’re registering, the type of business you operate, the date you originally reserved your trade name (or started using it), your name, and your title. You must also get this form notarized before you submit it to the state.
Once you’re ready to file this form, you can do so online, by mail, by fax, or by hand to the Secretary of State’s office, along with your $75 filing fee. This form has the same expediting options as the Application for Reservation.
Should You Hire a Trade Name Service?
Would you rather pay a reasonable fee to a business services company and have them register your trade name on your behalf? While you can certainly save some money by doing it yourself, it’s nice to have the peace of mind that your new trade name was registered by a professional who really knows what they’re doing.
Here are a few of our favorite services for trade name registrations, all offering the same low price point of $99:
- IncFile: IncFile is one of the best business service providers available, and its trade name service is top-notch. IncFile receives tremendous customer feedback, with thousands of positive reviews all over the web. They also have plenty of experience, as they’ve been around since 2004 and they’ve formed more than 250,000 businesses.
- LegalZoom: LegalZoom actually has two different packages for trade name services, as their $119 Premium package includes a trial of their Business Advisory Plan. LegalZoom is one of the biggest names in the industry, and they’ve served millions of customers. It’s hard to argue with a track record like that!
- Swyft Filings: Swyft Filings really lives up to their name, as they’re one of the fastest business services companies you’ll ever find. Not only do they have some of the industry’s quickest turnaround times, but they also say that you can fill out their entire trade name application in “as little as 10 minutes.”
To be honest, we often say that entrepreneurs shouldn’t bother with trade names because they don’t provide any exclusivity for your business name. However, actually does a solid job in this regard compared to most states.
Louisiana’s pledge to provide exclusivity for any trade name registered here makes the trade name an interesting proposition in this state, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this option to any of our readers.
If you’re looking for a new way to market your LLC in Louisiana, a trade name isn’t a bad idea.