Hot to Get a DBA Or Fictitious Business Name

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If you are a sole proprietor or a general partnership it is a good idea to obtain an official "doing business as" name authorization (a "DBA"). This is obtained from the county by filing a form, paying a small fee and then publishing the name in a local paper for a few weeks in case anyone objects to your use of that name. There are also services that will file your DBA

What is a DBA and how does it differ from a corporate name, registered name or a trademark? A DBA is a name authorization at a local level and is most commonly used for sole proprietors although other businesses can use them, even corporations and LLCs. A DBA is also known as a fictitious business name or a trade name. Here are some examples of how a DBA might be used:

  • Mary Smith is an interior designer. She has decided for various reasons that she doesn't need to incorporate so she does business herself, but she wants to have the business name "Supercreative Interior Designs." Mary can file a ficitious business name application in her county to use that name in her business, on signs, on business cards, and open a bank account in that name.

  • XYZ Corporation has multiple store locations throughout California, but each store is unique. In each city it wants to associate its name with the name of the city, such as “XYZ Corporation of Los Angeles” and so forth for each city. It can file a fictitious business name in each county for the names it wants to use.

  • Burger Joint Corporation has been doing business in San Francisco and wants to expand into southern California. It soon finds out there is already a hamburger restaurant in San Diego called Burger Joint and its attorney says it has to use a different name in San Diego. It can file a fictitious business name and go by something else like Burger Place in San Diego.

  • Jane Doe and Lisa Jones decide to form a general partnership (which is not filed with the Secretary of State) to operate a gift basket business. They want their business to be known as “Extraordinary Baskets.” Jane and Lisa can file a fictitious business name application so that they can use the name.

If you have formed a corporation or LLC and registered it with the State, you do not need to obtain a DBA because you have officially registered that name as your company trade name with the state. As shown by the examples above, Corporations, LLCs and other entities registered with the Secretary of State do not need to obtain a DBA, since their corporate name acts as their official trade name, but some choose to do so for marketing or other business reasons.

A DBA is not the same thing as a trademark. If you are going to be using the name on goods then you should obtain a trademark for the name.


This site is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, financial or tax advise. The information on this site should not be relied upon as an official source of information and should be independently verified.


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