A business name that is different from its full legal name is usually called a fictitious name or doing-business-as (DBA).
Most states call these DBAs, but you’ll also see these other common names:
- Trade Name
- Fictitious Name
- Assumed Name
- Fictitious Business Name
- Assumed Business Name
However, New Jersey has some unusual terms, and has particular use-cases for each of them. Make sure you understand them before you start a New Jersey LLC.
We explain each term below, including an example of how the process works.
An Alternate Name in New Jersey is the most like a traditional DBA.
A business entity files a Registration of Alternate Name with the New Jersey Secretary of State.
Once the Alternate Name is approved, the business can use that name instead of its full, legal entity name.
An Alternate Name costs $50 and must be renewed every 5 years.
Akiko and Petra start a New Jersey LLC called Over Watch Industries, LLC. Currently, Akiko and Petra sell custom eyeglass frames. But they chose a general name because they hope to expand into other businesses. So that their customers can recognize their eyeglass frames business more easily, they want to do business as “Snazzy Frames“.
So, Akiko and Petra file a Registration of Alternate Name and pay the fee. Now Over Watch Industries, LLC can operate as Snazzy Frames.
Who can use an Alternate Name in New Jersey?
Domestic entities. That means:
- Corporations formed in New Jersey
- Non-Profit Corporations formed in New Jersey
- Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) formed in New Jersey
- and Limited Partnerships (LPs) formed in New Jersey
Business entities formed in another state are allowed to apply for an Alternate Name only after the foreign entity has registered in New Jersey. This is different from the foreign entity dba requirement.
Sole Proprietorships, General Partnerships and Limited Liability Partnerships can’t apply for Alternate Names at the state level.
A Trade Name in New Jersey functions the same as an Alternate Name.
But a Trade Name is used by different business types than an Alternate Name. A Trade Name is registered with the County Clerk where the business operates instead of with the Secretary of State.
The fees and renewal rules vary by county. Here’s a list of New Jersey County Clerks websites and contact information.
Rosita operates her business as a Sole Proprietorship in Bergen County, New Jersey. She needs a Trade Name so that she can open a bank account for the business, instead of a bank account under her real name. Rosita decides to call her business Precious Pieces.
Rosita gets the Certificate of Trade Name form from the Bergen County Clerk’s Office. She follows the instructions on the form, and mails it to the Clerk. Once Rosita gets back the stamped certified copy, she can open a bank account as Precious Pieces.
Who can use a Trade Name in New Jersey?
- Sole Proprietorships
- General Partnerships
Some rules vary by county, including whether non-New Jersey residents and non-US residents may apply.
Corporations and LLCs can’t apply for Trade Names at the county level.
Some counties allow Limited Partnerships and Limited Liability Partnerships to apply.
New Jersey only uses the term “dba” or “D/B/A” for the purpose of allowing foreign entities to comply with distinguishability rules.
What does that mean?
New Jersey requires every business name to be distinguishable. That means no two businesses can have the same name, or have deceptively similar names. A foreign entity is a business entity that was formed in another state (not New Jersey).
Sometimes, a foreign entity tries to register to do business in New Jersey, but a New Jersey entity is already operating under the same name. In that case, New Jersey requires the foreign entity to register a dba. The foreign entity must use the dba when operating in New Jersey.
Bors is one of the owners of Rose & Crown, Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation. Rose & Crown, Inc. wants to open a restaurant in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. First, they need to register as a corporation in New Jersey.
But there is already a Rose & Crown, Inc. operating in New Jersey. So Bors must use a dba when he files Rose & Crown, Inc.’s foreign qualification paperwork. Bors and the other owners decide to use Rose and Crown Pubs Inc. as their DBA.
On the registration paperwork, and on all future filings in New Jersey, Bors must write: Rose & Crown, Inc. dba Rose and Crown Pubs Inc..
Once Rose & Crown, Inc. dba Rose and Crown Pubs Inc. is registered as a New Jersey corporation, Bors can apply for an alternate name to simplify things.
Who needs a dba in New Jersey?
Foreign entities. That means:
- Corporations formed in another state (not New Jersey)
- Non-Profit Corporations formed in another state (not New Jersey)
- Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) formed in another state (not New Jersey)
- Limited Partnerships (LPs) formed in another state (not New Jersey)
- General Partnerships formed in another state (not New Jersey)
- Sole Proprietorships formed in another state (not New Jersey)
New Jersey doesn’t have a process for foreign qualification of Sole Proprietorship or General Partnerships. So you don’t have to register them with the Secretary of State. But if a business already exists in New Jersey with the same name as your Sole Proprietorship or General Partnership, the Department of Revenue told us you still have to get a dba to operate in New Jersey.