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Think­ing of Reg­is­ter­ing a Busi­ness Name? This Arti­cle is for you!

Using a Dif­fer­ent Name for Busi­ness

Using a dif­fer­ent name for busi­ness is done when anoth­er enti­ty in your state is already using your desired com­pa­ny name. Busi­ness­es also use trad­ing names to enhance their brand­ing and adver­tis­ing efforts. When a busi­ness uses a name oth­er than its legal name, it’s called a fic­ti­tious name, trad­ing name, or Doing Busi­ness As (DBA) name. A DBA name should be dis­tin­guish­able from oth­er reg­is­tered enti­ty names and should not infringe on any oth­er com­pa­ny’s copy­right. DBA names are reg­is­tered in the state where you desire to do busi­ness.

Why You Might Need a DBA Name

There are a num­ber of ben­e­fits to using DBA names.

  • The busi­ness may need a DBA name to open a bank account.
  • Sole pro­pri­etors may need a DBA name to pro­tect their pri­va­cy.
  • States have strict require­ments for com­pa­ny names. Some of the require­ments force com­pa­nies to have long names, which are not prac­ti­cal for brand­ing and adver­tis­ing pur­pos­es. Many busi­ness­es need short­er, more mem­o­rable names for brand­ing.
  • For­eign com­pa­nies formed out of state may want to reg­is­ter in a new state under their legal name but might find that the name is already in use. States nor­mal­ly allow such com­pa­nies to reg­is­ter a DBA name for use in the state. To avoid being forced to use a DBA name for this rea­son, new busi­ness­es antic­i­pat­ing that they will expand to oth­er states in the future reg­is­ter their names in those states. This fil­ing can be updat­ed when it expires. Busi­ness law firms can help you with this ser­vice for a mod­est annual fee.

How to Reg­is­ter a DBA Name

The process for reg­is­ter­ing a DBA name varies from state-to-state. It usu­al­ly involves the fol­low­ing steps:

  • Choos­ing a name: The name should be short, mem­o­rable, and descrip­tive of the busi­ness’ indus­try.
  • Check­ing the name for avail­abil­i­ty: Check your name against the data­base of already reg­is­tered busi­ness names in the state. Most states require that names of new busi­ness­es should be dif­fer­ent from exist­ing com­pa­ny names and dis­tin­guish­able from the names of oth­er reg­is­tered com­pa­nies. The lev­el of dis­tin­guisha­bil­i­ty required dif­fers from state to state but, gen­er­al­ly, new com­pa­nies are not allowed to make minor changes to names of already reg­is­tered busi­ness­es and reg­is­ter them as their own. Many states have online data­bas­es of already reg­is­tered names that you can search for free.
  • Book­ing the name: You can reg­is­ter a Doing Busi­ness As name by fil­ing a form with the state’s Depart­ment of Cor­po­ra­tions. The fil­ing can gen­er­al­ly be done in per­son, by postal mail, or online. A small fee of $10-$50 is paid for the fil­ing. Some states do require that for­eign com­pa­nies file the name by postal mail. This fil­ing is not the final reg­is­tra­tion but is nor­mal­ly done to keep the name on hold for your busi­ness for a cou­ple of weeks pend­ing the offi­cial reg­is­tra­tion.
  • Offi­cial­ly reg­is­ter­ing the name: Com­pa­ny names in most states are offi­cial­ly reg­is­tered by fil­ing a form called the Arti­cles of Orga­ni­za­tion or Cer­tifi­cate of Incor­po­ra­tion or Arti­cles of For­ma­tion. In many states, this fil­ing is nor­mal­ly done with the Divi­sion of Cor­po­ra­tions of the office of sec­re­tary of state. A $50-$200 fee is nor­mal­ly required. The accep­tance of this fil­ing means that your com­pa­ny’s name is offi­cial­ly reg­is­tered.

Com­mon Require­ments for Doing Busi­ness As Names

Trade names must meet a num­ber of require­ments to be accept­ed for reg­is­tra­tion. Some of the com­mon require­ments in var­i­ous states are:

  • The name should not be in use by anoth­er reg­is­tered enti­ty in the state.
  • The name should be dis­tin­guish­able from oth­er names of reg­is­tered enti­ties in that state.
  • Depend­ing on the type of busi­ness, the name is some­times required to con­tain a spe­cif­ic phrase in the name. For exam­ple, lim­it­ed lia­bil­i­ty com­pa­nies are required to have the “lim­it­ed lia­bil­i­ty com­pa­ny” phrase or acronym with­in the name.
  • The name should not infringe on the copy­rights of oth­er reg­is­tered com­pa­nies in the U.S. Although this is not a require­ment for reg­is­tra­tion in many states, it is pru­dent to check with the Unit­ed States Patents and Trade­marks Office to avoid any future lit­i­ga­tion because of trade­mark issues.

This arti­cle is pro­vid­ed by UpCoun­sel.

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