What is a DBA Name?

By Cindy Hill

A DBA, or "doing business as" name, is a fictitious name under which an individual or other business entity -- partnership or corporation -- conducts its business. While some individuals successfully market their personal name as a brand name, most people select a DBA which allows consumers to more easily recognize the product or service they are selling, and to avoid confusion with other businesses. Businesses must comply with the laws of each state in which they do businesses regarding DBA registration.


The right public name is an important asset to any business. A trade name distinguishes the products or services of one business from all others. If chosen correctly, the name will stick in consumers' heads and create positive associations with the product or service offered. A good DBA name will look good in your marketing materials, be easy to pronounce and not have any potentially offensive connotations. A DBA is not just a name under which a sole proprietor, small business or larger corporation markets a brand of products or services, it forms the framework of the business's identity.

Avoiding Business Confusion

An important function of a DBA is to distinguish your business from all others, and in so doing, avoid implying your business is associated with other organizations or individuals with whom you have no legal connection. Choosing a name too similar to that of another business may not only confuse customers and lose you market share, it may also be a trademark violation. A major legal requirement to conduct business in each state is that every business operate under a name not currently in use by, or confusingly similar to, another business operating in the state. Searching the Internet, county and state databases of registered trade names, and federal trademark database helps ensure a chosen DBA is available and not unlawfully similar to the name of another business.

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Public Notice

Registration of a DBA notifies the public of the responsible party behind the name. When registering a DBA, you will likely have to name a registered agent, who resides in the state, to serve as the representative for the business. This allows members of the public or other businesses to locate the in-state agent of the DBA business to direct correspondence or legal documents.


Requirements for registering a DBA vary from state to state, but most states mandate registration with either the Secretary of State's office or local county registrar. Many states allow registration online, though the process and fees may differ depending on whether you are registering as an in-state or out-of-state DBA business. Changing the business name, address or registered agent usually requires prompt filing of an amendment to your DBA registration; this keeps state tax and business agencies as well as the public accurately informed of the business's contact information.

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What Does DBA Mean in Business?


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Can an LLC Have More Than One DBA?

Running a successful business requires a keen understanding of the marketplace. In the initial stages of operations, this foresight is important for determining how to structure a company and the names it will use in conducting transactions with the public. A limited liability company allows owners to enjoy the "pass-through" tax advantages of partnerships as well as avoiding personal liability for the business's debts. While state law requires that LLCs operate under the legal name contained in their Articles of Organization, sometimes this name is not desirable from a branding perspective, particularly if the company will market very different products or services. In that case, the LLC can register one or more "doing business as" names with the state.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Filing for a Fictitious Business Name

The name you use to conduct business can greatly affect the success of your endeavor. While you're required by state laws to use your business' legal name, you're also allowed to register a business alias -- called a fictitious business name -- to help establish awareness in the marketplace, distinguish a brand or for any other reason. The pros and cons of registering a fictitious business name depend on your circumstances and the legal structure of your venture.

Do You Need a DBA for Sole Proprietorship?

A sole proprietor can work under her own name or operate under a catchy business nickname. A DBA, which stands for "doing business as," can help you create a marketable trade name and identity. State laws regarding DBAs vary. A reputable, online legal document provider can complete DBA registration requirements that may apply to you.

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