How Important Is a DBA?

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

How Important Is a DBA?

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

The name you give your business is arguably its most important asset. If you choose to create and use a "doing business as" (DBA) name, choose your name carefully. Your DBA name helps potential customers find your business through your marketing efforts. For that reason, many business owners choose DBA names they believe will make customers think of the business's products or services.

DBA Basics

A DBA name, trade name, or fictitious business name is any name you want to use for your business other than the name used when registering with your state's Secretary of State or other business authority. If your business is a sole proprietorship, a DBA name is a name other than your own legal name.

For example, you might create a corporate entity for a restaurant and call the corporation "[your last name], Inc." However, your customers need to find you, and you ultimately want to get people to eat at your restaurant. So, you could create a DBA name like "[your last name] Family Restaurant."

After you've established a DBA, you can use that name for everything from your business bank accounts to signage.

DBA Name Considerations

When deciding on DBA names for their businesses, most business owners choose names they believe will resonate with the public and create interest in the company. However, you need to ensure another business operating your state or county is not already using the name you want to use. In addition, you cannot create a DBA name that is so similar to another existing business's name as to cause confusion or mislead the public.

For example, if your last name is "Appleby" and you want to open a string of family restaurants in your state, calling your restaurants "Appleby's" could be problematic simply because that name is too similar to the name of an existing national restaurant chain.

Registering DBA Names

State-specific laws govern business registrations, including DBA name registrations. In most states, companies and individuals who want to use DBAs must register their fictitious names. The registration process varies from one state to another but can involve filing notice of intent to use a DBA name in a local newspaper, registering the name with individual counties where you plan to use the DBA name, and paying registration fees.

Some business owners choose to hire business law attorneys to help with DBA registration. You could also work with a reputable online legal services provider to create your DBA and your business's brand.

Protecting Your Company's DBA

When you register your DBA name with your state or local government, you gain some protection knowing that another business in your geography cannot use the same or a substantially similar name. You might also consider registering your DBA name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Doing so could protect your company's name and brand anywhere in the country.

It is important to understand that creating a sole proprietorship and using a DBA name does not offer you the same type of personal liability protection you would enjoy if you created a corporation or limited liability company. If someone sues your company, your personal assets are at risk.

A business law attorney can help you determine what type of business entity makes the most sense for your new venture and can help you evaluate the merits of creating and registering a DBA name.

Teaser (I don't see a separate field for this on this order):

What's in a name? When it comes to a DBA name for your sole proprietorship or other business entity, quite a lot.

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.