What Do You Need to Register a Business Name?

By Mark Kennan

For many customers, your business name is the first point of reference they have with regard to your company. Leave a good impression, and you could be well on your way to making a lifelong customer. Give a bad impression, and that person might never give your business a chance. How you register the name of your business depends on the type of name you're registering.

Just Starting Out

If you're just starting your business and your state requires some form of registration of your business, your name is registered when you officially register your company with the appropriate state agency. For example, limited liability companies usually must file articles of organization with the secretary of state, and corporations must file articles of incorporation. Once your business entity is officially formed and registered, you can operate the business under its registered name. For example, when you submit articles of organization for Manny's Muscle Cars, LLC, that counts as official registration of that business name.


If for some reason you don't want to use the registered name of your business, you may need to file a doing business as, or DBA, name, also known as a trade name, assumed name or fictitious name, depending on the state you're in. Similarly, if you are a sole proprietorship and want to do business under a different name than your given name, you also need a DBA. For example, if your name is Manny Hernandez and you want to operate a sole proprietorship as Manny's Muscle Cars, you typically have to register that DBA name with the state or in the county in which you are doing business.

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DBA Registration Forms

The forms for registering a DBA vary from state to state. Generally, you need either your name or the name of the business that's registering the DBA, the address of the applicant and the business's registered agent, the business address and the type of activities the business operates. You'll likely need to pay a filing fee to register the trade name. In many states, your business name must be distinguishable from other already registered names. But, some states, like Colorado, don't require the name to be unique. However, if you register and use a name already in use, you could be sued by the prior user of the name.

Registration Process

Like the forms, the process for registering a DBA varies from state to state. In most states, the DBA is registered with the secretary of state. However, in some states business entities register DBAs at the county level. For example, in Texas, sole proprietors and general partnerships register assumed names with the office of the county clerk where the business is located. Although many states require paper filings, some, such as Colorado, use only online filings for trade names. Others, including Utah, allow you to register online, in person or by mailing in an application.

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How to Establish a DBA



Related articles

Define DBA

A DBA, short for "doing business as," refers to the name a company or individual uses when it operates under a different name than its legally registered name. Most states require you to register your DBA with either your county clerk’s office or with your state government, depending on where you're doing business. DBAs are also called "assumed names," "trade names," or "fictitious names."

How to Register a DBA Name So No One Else Can Use It

Companies and individuals can operate under fictitious, or assumed, names called DBAs. DBA stands for "doing business as" -- and state laws regarding DBAs vary. It is a misdemeanor crime in Missouri and Michigan to conduct business using an unregistered DBA. Other states, such as Tennessee, do not always require you to register assumed names.

How to Transfer a DBA to Florida

When you operate a business in one state and use a fictitious name, or “DBA” as it's commonly referred to, (which is short for “doing business as”), you can easily transfer that name if you decide to expand your business or move your operations to Florida. Florida business law does require that you follow certain procedures, which can be a little different, depending on whether you operate as a sole proprietor or as a legal business entity.

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