WA State Licensing: FAQ - Trademark registration

Frequently asked questions: Trade name registration

What is a trade name?

A trade name is any name used in the course of business that doesn’t include the full legal name of all the owners of the business. In the case of a limited partnership, corporation, or LLC, it’s any name that differs in any respect from the name registered with the Secretary of State.

When should I register a trade name?

The following are examples of when you need to register a trade name.

Possible business names: Corporation
Name registered with Secretary of State DON’T need to register DO need to register
Ginger’s Sweet Emporium, Inc. Ginger’s Sweet Emporium, Inc.
  • Ginger’s Sweets Emporium
  • Ginger’s Sweets
  • Ginger’s Emporium
  • Ginger’s Sweets Emporium

If you’re using your personal name in your business name, you may or may not have to register. For example:

Possible business names: Sole proprietor using personal name
Full legal name DON’T need to register DO need to register
John J. Jones
  • John J. Jones
  • John J. Jones CPA
  • John J. Jones Construction
  • John J. Jones Enterprises
  • John Jones
  • Johnny’s
  • Johnny Jones
  • J.J.’s
  • J.J. Jones
  • Jones
  • John J. Jones Company
Johnny Jones
  • Johnny Jones
  • Johnny Jones CPA
  • Johnny Jones Construction
  • Johnny Jones Enterprises
  • John Jone,
  • Johnny’s
  • John J. Jones
  • J.J.’s
  • J.J. Jones
  • Jones’
  • Johnny Jones Company
J.J. Jones
  • J.J. Jones
  • J.J. Jones CPA
  • J.J. Jones Construction
  • J.J. Jones Enterprises
  • John Jones
  • Johnny’s
  • John J. Jones
  • J.J.’s
  • Johnny Jones
  • Jones’
  • J. J. Jones Company
Possible business names: Partners using personal name
Full legal name DON’T need to register DO need to register
Michael Smith John Jones
  • Michael Smith John Jones
  • Michael Smith John Jones, CPAs
  • Michael Smith John Jones Construction
  • Michael Smith John Jones Enterprises
  • Mike Smith John Jones
  • M. Smith J. Jones
  • Smith Jones
  • M J
  • S J
  • Michael Smith, John Jones Company
  • Michael Smith, John Jones Associates

If you have questions on whether or not you need to register your business name, please call the Business Licensing Service at 1-800-451-7985.

Why do I need to register a trade name?

The purpose of trade name registration is to provide a record of all owners of a business. You must register your trade name in order to file a lawsuit on behalf of your business. This means a lawsuit for any purpose, not just lawsuits related to use of the business name. Registering your trade name doesn’t protect the name from use by others. The right to use a trade name belongs to the one who first uses it in connection with their business.

How do I register my trade name?

Trade names are registered using the Business License Application. Simply list each name you want to register on the Business License Application. In addition to the $19 non-refundable processing fee, there is a $5 fee for each name you register.

How can I add a trade name to my existing business?

Trade names are registered using the Business License Application. Add your UBI number and list each name you want to register on the Business License Application. In addition to the $19 non-refundable processing fee, there is a $5 fee for each name you register.

How can I change the trade name of my business?

  1. Fill out the Business License Application:
    • In section 1, Purpose of Application, mark the box labeled “Change Trade Name.”
    • In section 2, Licenses and Fees, mark the box labeled “New Trade Name” and write the new trade name you are changing to.
  2. Pay the $19 processing fee (non-refundable), and a $5 fee for each name you register.

Note: You may register as many names as you wish on the paper application. The online application limits the number of names to a total of 5 per application.

Can I find out if a trade name I want to use has already been registered?

Yes, you can search:

  • Online at:
  • By mail. Send us a letter with all of the following:
    • Your return address.
    • A list of the names you want to research.
    • A check or money order to pay the search fee (payable to “Department of Revenue”).
    The cost is $4 to search up to 3 names. Send your letter to:
    State of Washington
    Business Licensing Service
    PO Box 9034
    Olympia, WA 98507-9034

Note: If the search result is “No matches were found for your search,” it doesn’t guarantee that the name isn’t being used, only that it hasn’t been registered.

What do I do if I’m no longer using a trade name?

A trade name will remain registered indefinitely until the owner requests that it be canceled. If you are no longer using a trade name and wish to have it removed from your license:

  • Mail or fax a letter to the Business Licensing Service (see address below) requesting the cancellation of the trade name(s).
  • or
  • Use the Business Information Change form. Be sure to note your Unified Business Identifier number (UBI), sign and date your request. There is no charge for canceling a trade name.

Who can I contact for more information?

State of Washington
Business Licensing Service
PO Box 9034
Olympia, WA 98507-9034

Phone: 1-800-451-7985
Fax: 360-705-6699