Trade name or DBA (doing business as) is a simple type of registration that informs the public who you are and what kind of business you are in, as well as giving you some degree of name protection. This type of registration is commonly used by sole proprietorships, association of individuals, or other entities that want to "do business" under a different name. Under new legislation, effective 3/1/04, a trade name is now valid for a period of 5 years from its original registration or renewal date - the Secretary of State will mail a reminder to you at the end of the 5 year period. The fees have also changed.
Registration is simple and fairly painless. Your biggest obstacle will likely involve the name that you choose. Trade name registration is the most popular type of registration, so chances are pretty good that the catchy name you thought up is probably already registered to someone else - so check before spending money on advertising signs, etc. Remember that old saying "the good ones are already taken" - could be true!