What Does DBA Mean in Business?

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

What Does DBA Mean in Business?

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

A doing business as (DBA) name is the name the business operates under, rather than holding the business out to the public under its legal name. A company would use a DBA designation whenever it wants to use a name other than the official name it registered with the state agency that has jurisdiction over business, usually the Secretary of State.

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Why Businesses Use DBAs, or Fictitious Names

The most common reason to use a fictitious, or DBA, name for a business is to make sure the business's customers are able to identify what the business sells or provides—and to make sure the state can tie the business name to its underlying legal name.

For example, entrepreneurs who get approval to open new stores or restaurant locations for well-known businesses or franchises must create their own legal business entity first, usually as a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation. Often, this legal entity name refers to the owners' names but doesn't relate to the business in any meaningful way. Using a DBA makes the business relationship clear and ties the legal entity to the name the public recognizes.

Sole proprietors may also need to register a DBA name if their business name is different from the owner's legal name. Doing so can help a sole proprietor create a professional identity for his or her new business, without having to go through the steps to create an LLC or corporation when there's no other reason to do so.

DBAs can also allow corporations or LLCs to own and operate several different kinds of businesses under the same company umbrella, without the need to establish multiple legal business entities. This streamlined approach is often more efficient.

Choosing a DBA Name

When deciding to use a DBA name, a business needs to make sure the name it wants to use is available for use and that it doesn't run the risk of confusing the public by being too similar to another registered name. It's also important to note that a business cannot use "corporation," "inc.," "LLC," or any variation of those in a DBA name.

DBA Registration Requirements

Business laws and requirements are driven by state specific statutes, so it's important to understand what your state requires if you are considering using a DBA name for your business. In some states, DBAs are referred to as assumed business names, fictitious business names, or trade names.

No matter what it's called in your state, before using your new business name, you may need to file additional documents with each state and/or county where you operate and publish notices in newspapers. These requirements are designed to protect consumers by enabling them to know who they're dealing with when they do business with a company.

A full review of each state's registration requirements for DBAs is outside the scope of this article. However, business owners choosing to create and use DBA names should verify that their businesses are in compliance with all applicable DBA laws.

By putting some thought into choosing a DBA name and following state registration requirements, you can use a DBA name you believe will help propel your business toward its goals.

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.