How Does a Business Adopt a DBA?

october 31, 2019 | small business
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Filing a DBA is a common step for businesses.

A Doing Business As (DBA) allows you to conduct business under a different name for advertising, branding, banking, and other things. The legal name of the business for a sole proprietorship is the owner’s personal name, and for the most part, the last names of the partners for a partnership. However, with a DBA you can conduct business under a different name yet use your existing company structure, even if it’s an LLC or Corporation. The DBA is useful for business owners who don’t want to use their own names for a business name or for companies that have rebranded or have multiple offerings. As a side note, a sole proprietorship exposes you to personal liability and an entity should be formed. 

In many states, a business must register a DBA with the local or state government in order to use that name publicly for its business. There are some states, however, where you do not have to register—but it’s advisable to have some legal protection for the name by registering with the local government, or registering the name as a trademark in the state. Depending on your state, the DBA might also be called a “trade name,” “assumed name,” or “fictitious name”. 

Here are a few scenarios where you will want a DBA:

  1. Opening a business bank account using the name of the business
  2. A franchise business that wants to do business under the franchise’s name (check your agreements to see if necessary)
  3. Corporations or LLCs that want to use a name that differs from the official name of the corporation or LLC, or that operate other businesses using different names.

DBA Filing Process

First, you will need to confirm that the DBA name you want is not already in use by another business. Once you have performed that search, the process is quite simple but you can have an attorney assist with the form and filing with the Secretary of State or County Clerk. You will also have to pay an application fee, but the amount is often a nominal amount.

There are a few states where you will also have to go to the local newspaper and publish your DBA name. Sometimes a DBA you register for also may have an expiration date; you can lose the right to use the name if you don’t renew.

Trademark and Legal Issues

While a DBA is very useful, you should know some of its limitations. First, a DBA is not the same as a trademark. ou will not have trademark protection just from filing a DBA, you will need to go through a trademark application process. This is a complex area of intellectual property law and an attorney’s help can ultimately save you time and money. Note that there are some jurisdictions that even allow two different entities to register the same name, although most jurisdictions prohibit this to avoid confusion.

Conversely, a DBA also does not shield you from claims of infringement on another company’s trademark. You have to watch out for unregistered trademarks (or common law trademarks), which, by definition, are not registered by the government but their owners have some rights.. You’ll recognize them because they use the TM instead of the R in a circle symbol with the name. Research is required to determine if someone else is already using the name you want to use in your region, and necessary to avoid a complicated legal battle.

When you find the company name that you want and it’s not protected by anyone else, consider contacting an attorney to pursue a trademark application.

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