A sole proprietorship or partnership that is engaged in an export-import business can operate under the name of the sole proprietor or one or more of the partners. There are no registration requirements with any government agency. However, if the sole proprietorship or partnership operates under a fictitious name, it must file a fictitious business name statement with the appropriate government agency. Most states also require publication of the trade name in a local newspaper that serves the area where the business is located.
Example: Suppose John Rifkin wants to operate an export-import business (sole proprietorship) under the name “Global.” This is commonly stated as “John Rifkin doing business as Global.”
Corporations are required to register their business name with the state. It is important to obtain permission to use a trade name before incorporation. This is intended to ensure that (1) the trade name does not imply a purpose inconsistent with that stated in the articles of incorporation, and (2) the trade name is not deceptively similar to registered and reserved names of other companies incorporated to do business in the state. The secretary of state or other designated agency will do a search before authorizing the party to use the name (Cheeseman, 2006a; Mallor et al., 2013).
Unlike the effect of corporate name registration, registration of fictitious names does not prevent the use of the same name by others. This is because most states do not have a central registry of fictitious business names and registration of such names is simply intended to indicate the person doing business under the trade name. To avoid registration of a similar trade name, it is advisable to check records of counties as well as local telephone directories for existing fictitious business names (McGrath, Elias, and Shena, 1996).
Another important issue is the potential problems that ensue when such names are used as trademarks to identify goods or services. Suppose John Rifkin intends to use the trade name “Global” to market his perfume imports. It is important to ensure that the same or a similar name is not being used or registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office by another party prior to Rifkin’s use of “Global” as a mark. The basic principles also apply in the case of corporations. If Rifkin uses “Global” as a trademark in connection with his trade or business for some time, he acquires exclusive use of the mark regardless of whether the same or a similar mark has previously been registered by others. Once a trader acquires a reputation in respect of his mark, then it becomes part of his goodwill, which is regarded by law as part of personal property that may be sold or licensed.
Source: Seyoum Belay (2014), Export-import theory, practices, and procedures, Routledge; 3rd edition.