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Filing a Business Trade Name Registration

Learn How to File a Fictitious Name or D/B/A


Filing a Business Trade Name (D/B/A or Fictitious Name)

You are probably wondering what a “fictitious name” is and why you need one for your business. Here is an explanation:

What is a “fictitious name”?

When a company is legally registered with one name and that company is advertising or trading or is commonly known by another name, the common name is a “fictitious name.” For example, if a company is organized as an LLC with the name Ask Enterprises LLC and the company runs a chain of grocery stores called “Super S Stores”, the stores are run under a fictitious name.

So, what is a DBA or d/b/a designation?

DBA (sometimes written d/b/a) stands for “Doing Business As.” A DBA is the same as a fictitious name.

What is the purpose of a “DBA”?

People in your community need to know who is running the local businesses. Unfortunately, some people start a company and then operate under a different (fictitious) name so the owners could avoid legal problems. They figured if no one could find them, they wouldn’t be able to sue them. So the DBA designation was put in place as a consumer protection, to prevent people from hiding their ownership from the public. When you file your DBA, it is usually printed in the local newspaper, so everyone can see who is starting and running that business.

When do I need to file a “DBA”?

When you have set up your business organization form and you have determined that you are operating under a different name from your legal name, you must file a fictitious name/DBA.

How do I file a “DBA”?

Go to the County Recorder of the county where your business is located and ask for the DBA or “fictitious name” filing form. Different counties call this form by different titles, so be persistent if the clerk gives you a strange look. You may have to pay a small fee.

What if my business name and company name are the same?

Then you don’t need a DBA/fictitious name statement filed. For example, if you have registered your LLC as “Super S Stores” and that’s the name on all your stores, you don’t need a DBA.

I’m a sole proprietor. Does this DBA apply to me?

It applies if your company name is different from your own name. For example, if you are a sole proprietor named “Rhonda Smith” and you have a photography studio named “Smith Portraits” or “Rhonda Smith Photography Studio,” you don’t need to file a DBA. But if Rhonda Smith were doing business as “Catalyst Photography,” she would need a DBA.

I’m still confused. How do I know if I need a DBA?

The best way to find out if you need a DBA is to go to the County Recorder’s office and ask them to help. You can also ask an attorney to help you with this filing.

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