Companies and individuals can operate under fictitious, or assumed, names called DBAs. DBA stands for "doing business as" -- and state laws regarding DBAs vary. It is a misdemeanor crime in Missouri and Michigan to conduct business using an unregistered DBA. Other states, such as Tennessee, do not always require you to register assumed names.
Sole proprietors operating under business names that differ from their own legal names must generally register their DBAs. Businesses entities, such as corporations, must also generally register DBAs. State law determines if you must register assumed names at your state corporation division or with your county clerk's office. Generally, you may submit a DBA application in person, by mail or online.
DBA applications require your legal name or your company's name and business address. You must state your proposed DBA, or fictitious name, and generally, the application must be notarized. You typically cannot obtain a DBA in your county or state if another person or company has already registered it. You can determine name availability before submitting a DBA application by calling or visiting your appropriate government agency. Many government offices also offer free, name-availability searches on their official websites.