When Do You Need to Register a DBA for an S-Corp?

By Terry Masters

Under ordinary circumstances, registering a "doing business as" name, or DBA, for your S corporation is optional. State laws require a corporation to transact business under its legal name, but allow it to use a registered business alias for any legitimate business purpose. Your S corporation may be required to use a DBA, also known as a trade name or fictitious business name, if its name duplicates another business name that is already in use in a state.

State-Based Business Names

When you formed your S corporation, the state in which you incorporated likely checked the name you wanted to use for the new venture to ensure it wasn't already in use by another company operating within the state's territory. Every state has its own business code with rules for the formation and operation of corporations, but they all require corporations to transact business under the legal name listed in their articles of incorporation. This ensures that the public can identify the entity behind commercial transactions and businesses can protect the reputation established in the marketplace under a specific name.

Ordinary Uses for DBAs

S corporations can use an alias for business purposes within most states. As long as the name is properly registered within the state, the option to use one or more DBAs within the jurisdiction is usually available. Some of the optional reasons why an S corporation might choose to use a DBA in a particular market is to build a brand name that is not the legal name of the corporation, distinguish a division, develop a new product category that the corporation doesn't want customers to easily associate with the corporation's legal name, and to make it easier to spin off or sell a division or product line without losing the rights to the corporation's legal name.

File a DBA for your business online. Get Started Now

Expanding Into Other States

The only time your S corporation may be required to use a DBA is if you want to expand into a state where another company is already using the company's legal name. Since incorporation is state-based, it's possible that another corporation was formed in a different state with the same or a confusingly similar name. To obtain permission from the new state to transact business within it's boundaries, the S corporation may be required to register a DBA. In this instance, the company may only be allowed to refer to itself within that particular state by its DBA.

Protecting a Trademarked Name

If your S corporation's legal name is federally trademarked, you have the exclusive right to use the mark within the entire United States. Finding out that another corporation is using the mark within the state your S corporation wants to expand into would be grounds for you to demand the infringing company stop using the name. In that instance, you could expand into the new state without resorting to the use of a DBA.

File a DBA for your business online. Get Started Now
Advantages & Disadvantages of Filing for a Fictitious Business Name

References

Related articles

Alaska Foreign Business Registration Requirements

When it comes to business registration, Alaska considers those that aren't based in the state as “foreign,” even if they're located in another U.S. state. Since out-of-state companies generally are required to register in the state of Alaska before operating within its boundaries, you’ll likely have to register if your business is based in another state.

How to Acquire an Abandoned Company Name

A company's legal name is a unique identifier that allows the government and the public to recognize the parties responsible for business actions. It can be difficult to determine the availability of a name that has been effectively abandoned by a company. Each state has its own procedures for determining if a name can be considered abandoned, and whether a different company can use it.

How to Obtain a Trademark

You obtain a trademark by using a logo, word, slogan or design that is associated with a product or service provided by your business. The key to establishing a trademark is using it actually and continually in commerce. The strength of your trademark rights depends on the uniqueness of your trademark, how long it has been in use and the size of the geographical area where the trademark is used. Although not legally required, registering your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides the maximum legal rights and protection for your trademark.

Related articles

How to Sign a Corporate Letter With a DBA

Corporations can use a fictitious business name, also known as a "doing business as" or DBA, for a variety of reasons, ...

How to Establish a DBA

A DBA, or "doing business as," is a name you use for your business besides your real name. DBAs are also known as ...

Do General Partnerships Require a DBA?

DBA, or doing business as, occurs when a business operates under a name other than its legal name. A general ...

Do You Need a DBA with an LLC?

A limited liability company is a legal structure that blends some of the elements of a corporation with those of a ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED