When it comes to registering a business name, Alabama's rules are flexible. Generally, the decision to register a fictitious name is left up to the business owner. It is not a state requirement for the business to do so.
What Qualifies as a Fictitious Name
As a business owner, you have the option of incorporating your name into your business' name or going in a more creative direction. If your name is Robert Mackenzie and you name your bakery Mackenzie Cakes, for instance, Alabama doesn't consider your business name fictitious, because your last name is part of it. However, if you were to choose Plenty O' Cakes as your business name, this would qualify as a fictitious name, also known as an alias, assumed name, trade name or "doing business as" name.
Fictitious Name Registration
Alabama doesn't require all business owners to register trade names, as other states do. Some business entities, such as corporations and limited liability companies, are required to register with the state in order to conduct business in Alabama. However, any trade names used typically are reported on the formation or registration documents filed with the Secretary of State. This is after the businesses submit a name reservation, which ensures that no two registered businesses in Alabama have the same name. Thus, a separate trade name filing is not required, although a business can choose to file if the owners or directors want to.
Once you've settled on a name for your business, check the Secretary of State's website to see if any other businesses operating in the state are using it. Type your chosen name into the Business Entity Search database and review the results. Keep in mind that not finding any matches doesn't mean your chosen name is not already in use -- because Alabama doesn't require the registration of trade names.
It is still a good idea to register your company's trade name, because it puts other businesses on notice that the name is already in use and discourages potential trademark infringement. Registration also can help establish which business used the name first in the event of a lawsuit.
If you decide to register your trade name, complete an Application to Register Trademark, Service Mark, or Trade Name in Alabama. The form is available online from the Alabama Secretary of State's website. You also can call the Business Services Department at (334) 242-5324 and have the form mailed to you. Sign the completed document in front of a notary pubic and submit it, along with the $30 filing fee payable to Alabama Secretary of State, to the Business Services Department, P.O. Box 5616, Montgomery, AL 36103-5616. You also can deliver the filing in person to the Business Services Department, located in Suite 119 of the Alabama State House, 11 South Union Street, Montgomery, AL 36130.