Businesses frequently choose to create "doing business as" (DBA) names for various reasons. If your business is using a DBA name but wants to change that name, you need to follow your state's process and meet its procedural requirements. Steps involved vary from state to state but may include verifying name availability, filing a form or application with the Secretary of State or other business authority, publishing your filing in a legal newspaper, and paying a fee.
Reasons for Changing Your DBA Name
There are many reasons why you may want to establish a DBA name for your business. Sole proprietors often use DBA names when they want their business to be called something other than the sole proprietor's legal name. Other business entities may use DBA names or fictitious business names to connect with their markets and customer bases.
Sometimes, what may have seemed like the perfect business name at the outset may be less than perfect as time goes by. Inadvertently choosing a DBA name that is limiting in some way could hinder your company's ability to continue growing.
For example, hypothetical Jane Smith began a sole proprietorship for her consulting practice. When she began consulting, Jane was only consulting on widgets. She filed a DBA name calling her business "Widgets Consulting." As time went by, Jane also started consulting on sprockets and gadgets. She may want to change the name of her consulting business to something that doesn't sound like she only consults on widgets, so customers looking for consulting help with sprockets and gadgets can find her.
The Process for Changing a DBA Name
Whatever your reason, changing your DBA is fairly simple. Again, parts of this process vary by state, but these steps provide an overview.
1. Confirm your new name's availability.
If you decide to change your DBA name, you need to confirm that the new name you want to use is available. Your chosen name must also not be too similar to another business's name.
Check with your state's Secretary of State or other business authority to determine whether your desired name is available. Many states have website tools available to assist with this process. You may also wish to check with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to confirm your new business name will not violate an existing trademark or patent.
2. Follow your state or local jurisdiction's procedural requirements.
Next, you need to follow your state's or county's specific requirements to change your DBA name. In some states, business owners may be required to file a new application for a DBA name as opposed to filing an amendment for an existing name.
Requirements vary, but you may also have to publish notification of the new DBA name in a legal newspaper for your county over a period of several consecutive weeks. Your state may also require you to formally terminate the previous DBA name by publishing notice of the termination.
3. Notify your customers and business partners.
Finally, after you change the DBA name for your business, don't forget to notify your existing customer base. This can help limit any confusion and can help you strengthen your customer relationships. You also need to notify the bank or other financial institution your business uses and any other organizations your company interacts with. This includes vendors, suppliers, and professional service providers like attorneys and accountants.
It's common for a growing business to outwear its original DBA name. Each state has a process and several procedural requirements that must be met in order to accomplish a DBA name change. For many business owners, this process and its procedures might be well worth taking so that their DBA name reflects the growth they have experienced as their services expand and change.
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.