A DBA name is a name that an individual or a business uses to conduct business in the state, unless you are doing business under your own legal name or exact corporate name, according to the State Corporation Commission in Virginia. So If your name is Rick Reilly and you are opening a shoe store named Rick's Shoes, you must file for a DBA in the county where your store is before you can start selling sneakers. DBA is short for "Doing Business As." A DBA name is also known as a fictitious name, assumed name or trade name. Sometimes it is called a t/a, short for "trading as," or an aka, short for "also known as."
If you are doing business as a sole proprietor, you must file the proper DBA form, called a certificate, at the clerk's office in the circuit court of the county where Rick's Shoes will be located. Pay a fee, which varies by county, and your business is good to go.
Other business entities -- such as a corporation, limited liability company or a limited partnership -- also must obtain a DBA name unless it is using the company's precise registered name. In addition, you must take a certified copy, also known as an attested copy, of the certificate and file it with the clerk's office at the SCC. An attested copy is one that has been stamped and signed by the county clerk who helped you obtain the DBA name.
Distinguishable DBA Names
Your application for a DBA name will be rejected if the name is already in use in the county where you intend to do business. It will also be rejected if the name is considered to be indistinguishable from an already approved DBA name. You can check with the clerk's office to see if Rick's Shoes is already taken before you apply.
If you open Rick's Shoes without first obtaining a DBA name, you can be convicted of a misdemeanor. This is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or a jail sentence of up to one year.
Protecting Your DBA Name
Whether your DBA name is protected from use by others is a complex legal question, the SCC says. Although the commission isn't allowed to file a DBA for another business entity with a name indistinguishable from yours, it can't protect your DBA name if another company has a state or federal trademark on the name. The SCC recommends consulting a professional about intellectual property protection of your business name.