Doing Business As – or DBA – is the legal business operating name that a merchant uses, which the public primarily identifies when interfacing with the company at hand, as seen in such formats as storefront signage; business cards and literature; or on an online website. A DBA is also referred to as an assumed name. Sole proprietors who own a parent corporation or other formal legal entity – such as a Legal Liability Corporation, Partnership, etc. – will often use a DBA to operate multiple businesses without creating a new entity, which is often a costly and time-consuming process.
Once a company acquires a DBA, it can open a new and separate banking account, as well as create new contact information for the public to reach, in order to differentiate it from other DBAs the company may have set up.
Acquiring a DBA is a relatively straight-forward process. In the U.S., a company can register an assumed business operating name with their local Secretary of State or another related state agency, however, registration is primarily handled at the county level. Typically, a company performs a DBA name search through a database to make sure their chosen name is not currently in use, then the company submits a simple application form and a filing fee. Some states also require that a company publishes their proposed DBA as a notice in a local newspaper, as well as submit an affidavit to show that the company has fulfilled the publication requirement. All of the above process can easily be fulfilled through a legal services agency for a small fee, in addition to the state filing fees.
The clear chain of legal record company DBA names, that lead to a parent company, allows consumers to track operation in the case a search is required for suit flings etc.
In Canada, the term ‘operating as’, which is abbreviated to o/a, is used by companies. In the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia, the phrase ‘trading as’ – abbreviated as t/a – is used. In several U.S. states, such names are also referred to as trade styles, assumed business names or fictitious business names.
DBA statements are often necessary with a the formation of a franchise, where the franchisee name might be something like “The Tennis Connection”, but business is done under a brand name the public would recognize, such as “Fuzzy Yellow Ones.” The legal name of the franchise may then be something like “United Tennis Ball Company.”
The differentiation between an actual and a “fictitious” merchant name is important because businesses with “fictitious” names provide no obvious indication of the entity that is legally responsible for their operation. So, for consumer protection purposes, most jurisdictions require merchants operating with fictitious names to file a DBA statement. This also greatly reduces the possibility of two local businesses operating under the exact same name. This is, however, not a replacement for obtaining a national trademark. A DBA filing carries no legal precedence in instances in which a trademark would be necessary.