How to Choose and Protect a DBA

A "Doing Business As" name, or DBA name, is used when a business uses a different name from its official legal name. In order to comply with state and local laws, it is essential to understand how to choose and protect your DBA.

How Do You Choose a Fictitious Business Name?

A DBA, also known as an assumed name or fictitious name, allows a company to create a new business identity without establishing a new entity. Any business entity can file for a DBA in the state, county, or city in which it does business. Entities may be sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations, or limited liability companies. Some businesses have a single business name and then choose to file fictitious name applications for subsidiary activities or to create a new public image.

While you have a fair degree of creative freedom when choosing a DBA, it is crucial to understand some key considerations before making the DBA official. Two essential factors to consider include defining the purpose of your DBA and understanding your state's naming guidelines.

Define the Purpose of Your DBA

Define the purpose of the fictitious name. If you are creating a company image, the name should reflect the overall products and services of the company. If you are creating a specialty division, the name should represent that special line of business.

Follow Your State's Naming Guidelines

Check with domain registries, county clerk's offices, and the US Patent and Trademark Office to ensure you can get the DBA without restrictions. Free online searches allow you to make sure no other company is already branding with the name you want to use.

What Do You Need to Know About Protecting Your DBA?

Once you settle on a DBA name, you need to protect it. Keep in mind that there are four different ways to register your business name, and a DBA name is just one of those. Each method of registering your name serves a different purpose. Note that some may be legally required depending on your business structure and location.

  • Entity name protects you at a state level.
  • Trademark protects you at a federal level.
  • DBA name doesn't give legal protection, but it might be legally required.
  • Domain name protects your business website address.

Each of these name registrations is legally independent. Many businesses try to use the same name for each kind of registration, but you're not generally required to. Depending on the location of your business, you may need to register your DBA with the state, county, or locality. Some business structures also require the use of a DBA.

Even if your state, county, or locality does not require DBA registration, you should consider doing so anyway. With a DBA, you can conduct business under a different identity than your personal name or your formal business entity name. Additionally, obtaining a DBA and a federal tax ID number (EIN) allows you to open a business bank account.

Determine your DBA requirements based on your specific location. Requirements vary by business structure and state, county, and municipality, so check with local government offices and websites.

Outsource Your DBA Management to Harbor Compliance

Choosing your DBA might not be difficult depending on your business and goals; however, protecting the name can present challenges. Fortunately, you can work with DBA specialists to manage your DBA, as well as other aspects of your business registration and licensing.

If you are looking to outsource your DBA filings, Harbor Compliance can help. With our Managed DBA services, you can expect:

  • Worry-Free Compliance. Forget navigating state websites, agonizing over government forms, and tracking renewal due dates. Leave the paperwork to us.
  • Responsive Service. Our one-day onboarding, precision file preparation, and expedited filing options set the bar for prompt, responsive service.
  • Total Solutions. In addition to DBA management, our specialists can manage entities, business licensing, tax registration, and more.

With Harbor Compliance, you're partnering with a team of compliance specialists who understand your goals and can manage the regulatory tasks to get you there. Contact us today to learn more.

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