Fast Facts on Trade Names and Marks

You ask, we answer. Here’s a list of your most frequently asked questions:

What is a trade name and do I need to register one?

A trade name is a fictitious company name used to identify your business. Registration of a trade name is optional. If you are doing business in Hawaii, you may register a trade name with the Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs(“DCCA”). You may also choose other state business registries if you are doing business in other states too. No federal registration is available for names.

I have a sole proprietorship business, and my bank says I am required to register a trade name. Why is this?

Though Hawaii’s business registration law does not require sole proprietors to register a trade name, your bank may have a policy or rule that does. Check with your bank to find out which documents it requires from you when opening an account or applying for a loan.

If I register a trade name, will I own it?

No, ownership of a trade name is generally acquired through the actual use of the name in a trade or business.

If it’s not required by law and it doesn’t grant me ownership rights, why would I register my trade name?

Trade name registration provides notice to the rest of the community that you are conducting business using the registered trade name. It may also provide proof of the time at which you began using the trade name in an active business. This may be useful if another business later claims that it has rights to the name. While a trade name registration is active, no one else is allowed to register the name with DCCA.

What’s the difference between a trademark and a trade name?

A trademark is a word, symbol, phrase or slogan, or combination of these items used to mark and distinguish your goods from others in the marketplace. A trade name is your company’s name, the name under which you do business.

How do I register a trade name or business entity name?

  • Sole Proprietorship (Form T-1; application for Trade Name registration is optional – no entity is formed)
  • General Partnership (Form GP-1)
  • Limited Liability Partnership (Forms GP-1 and LLP-1)
  • Limited Partnership (Form LP-1)
  • Limited Liability Limited Partnership (Form LP-1)
  • Corporation (Form DC-1)
  • S Corporation (Form DC-1; the registration form is the same used for “C” corporations. The “S” election is submitted to the Internal Revenue Service on federal Form 2553)
  • Limited Liability Company (Form LLC-1)
  • **NOTE: If you are forming a business entity, registration is required.

How do I register a trademark or service mark?

Marks may be registered either with the Hawaii DCCA or the federal U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Like trade names, registration of marks is optional, but it does offer significant benefits in protecting your mark (especially federal registration).