Do General Partnerships Require a DBA?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

Do General Partnerships Require a DBA?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

A general partnership is a business entity made up of at least two people. A DBA, or "doing business as," is a fictitious name under which a business can choose to operate. A general partnership is not required to use a DBA and always has the option of using its legal name, which is a combination of the last names of all of the individuals in the partnership. In most states, general partnerships that choose to use DBAs must register their fictitious business names with the county clerk or the agency that governs business regulations, usually the Secretary of State.

Man looks over two women's shoulders flicking through documents

Characteristics of a General Partnership

Every partner in a general partnership must agree to be liable for anything the other partners do. For instance, if a partner enters into a binding legal agreement, all other partners must adhere to that agreement.

General partnerships usually disband when one of the partners dies, retires, or otherwise leaves the partnership, unless there is an agreement that states otherwise.

When Should a Business File a DBA?

There are many considerations to take into account when deciding whether to operate under a DBA. For general partnerships, the legal name of the business often does not reflect the nature of the business. Registering as a DBA to more accurately reflect your business may be a good marketing strategy.

Other reasons why a general partnership might file a DBA include:

  • To protect the personal names of the general partners. As stated above, the legal name of a general partnership is the partners' individual names. The business may elect to operate under a DBA as an alternative to using the personal names of all the partners.
  • To open a business bank account. Most banks require that a general partnership use its DBA, not its legal name, on the account.
  • To enable business expansion. The general partnership may expand the original scope of its business into new areas. In this case, a DBA could be useful for distinguishing between the types of areas your business covers.

How to File a DBA

Filing requirements vary by state. Some states do not even require a business to register its DBA. A typical DBA application involves filling out a short form and submitting it to the Secretary of State. The form usually requires some basic information about the business and its partners, all of who must provide their signatures.

Once the partnership has filed a DBA, the final step is to publish the name in a local newspaper to give notice to the public.

Protecting Your Unique DBA

Registering a DBA with the state does not provide any legal protection. If a general partnership wants to ensure that it has the sole rights to use its DBA, it must register it as a trademark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This ensures that no other business can use the same DBA.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.