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'Doing Business As': How to Register a DBA Name

how do i register a new business

By Michael Keller, BusinessNewsDaily Contributor July 13, 2010 12:00 pm EST

Credit: Dreamstime

The name of your business is likely the first thing potential customers see and it’s a powerful device for establishing your business’ identity. That’s why so many new business owners start thinking about their new venture’s name before they even develop a business plan .

One of your first jobs will be to legally register your business name with your state and, in some cases, with your county. What qualifies as a legal business name varies.  It’s the owner’s full name in the case of sole proprietorships, the name given in a partnership agreement, or the name registered with the state in the case of LLCs and corporations, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration .

But if your legal name doesn’t have the zing you want for your business, you may choose to do business under some other fictitious title called a DBA (also sometimes referred to as a "d.b.a"). It stands for Doing Business As.

“Your company name should define who you are,” said Doug Williams, the head of Alesco Marketing, based in Vancouver, Wa. which just went through a name change this year. “When my company’s business focus changed, my old name didn’t make sense anymore,” Williams told BusinessNewsDaily.

Using a DBA allows you to avoid the hassle of changing the company’s legal name while still having a name that reflects your business identity.

“Doing the DBA is a very easy and inexpensive step,” said Williams, who is a small business consultant. “But

you have to be careful with the name you choose, especially if you’ve already developed a following. You risk losing all the business you had.”

Most states require that businesses using assumed names register them as a means of protecting consumers. How, then, do you register your business’  new name (known by different regulators as a trade, assumed, or DBA name) and what do you need to do it?

There is no federal agency that registers fictitious names. Some states don’t require it, either. If yours does, you’ll need to determine whether it is handled by the state  or if it has been relegated to their county clerk’s office.

In New York, for example, sole proprietorships and general partnerships must file a business certificate listing their assumed names with county clerk’s offices. Corporations, LLCs, LLPs and limited partnerships, meanwhile, must file assumed names with the New York Department of State. The state of Kansas, on the other hand, has no requirements for businesses to register fictitious names.

The SBA has compiled state and territory links.

Once you’ve settled upon your business’ fictitious name and registered it locally, you may want to look into filing for a trademark to protect your intellectual property with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Trademarks protect words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services.

Finally, if the paperwork is starting to make your head spin, a business lawyer will be able to complete all the necessary filings to secure your DBA name. Reputable business lawyers are listed by the American Bar Association .

Category: Personal Finance

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