It’s a common question that we get from our clients: Does our trademark need to match our business name? The answer is no, you don’t need to have a matching business name and trademark. In fact, you don’t even need to have a business name at all to register a trademark. However, there are some advantages and disadvantages of using a different name for your trademark than your business name. In this blog, we’ll explain what a DBA is, when you might need one, and how it affects your trademark rights.
What Is a DBA?
DBA stands for “doing business as.” It’s also known as an assumed name, a trade name, or a fictitious name. A DBA is a name that you use to conduct business under, instead of your legal name or your business entity name. For example, if your name is John Smith and you own a sole proprietorship that sells flowers, you can use a DBA such as “John’s Flower Shop” or “Blooming Buds” to identify your business to the public.
A DBA is not a separate legal entity from your business. It’s simply a nickname that you use for marketing or branding purposes. A DBA does not provide any legal protection or liability separation for your business. To get those benefits, you need to form a business entity, such as a corporation or a limited liability company (LLC).
Which Businesses Need a DBA?
Not all businesses need a DBA. It depends on your business structure, your location, and your preference. Here are some scenarios where you might need or want to use a DBA:
- You are a sole proprietorship or a general partnership, and you want to use a name that is different from your own name or your partner’s name. For example, if your name is Jane Doe and you run a catering business, you might want to use a DBA such as “Jane’s Catering” or “Delicious Dishes” to attract more customers.
- You have formed a business entity, such as a corporation or an LLC, and you want to use a name that is different from your entity name. For example, if your entity name is “XYZ Inc.” and you sell shoes, you might want to use a DBA such as “XYZ Shoes” or “Footwear Factory” to better reflect your products.
- You have multiple businesses or product lines under the same entity, and you want to use different names for each of them. For example, if you own a corporation that operates a restaurant, a bakery, and a catering service, you might want to use DBAs such as “Pizza Palace,” “Bakery Bliss,” and “Catering Corner” to distinguish them from each other.
- You want to expand your business to a different state or county, and your existing name is already taken or registered by someone else in that jurisdiction. For example, if you own a salon called “Hair Today” in California, and you want to open another branch in Texas, but there is already a salon with the same name there, you might want to use a DBA such as “Hair Tomorrow” or “Hair Affair” to avoid confusion or legal issues.
How to File a DBA Name
If you decide to use a DBA name for your business, you need to register it with the appropriate authority in your state or county. The registration process and fees vary depending on where you are located, but generally, you need to follow these steps:
- Choose a DBA name that is unique, distinctive, and not confusingly similar to existing names. You can typically run a search for DBAs and trade names in your state or jurisdiction. It’s also not a bad idea to search the USPTO to check for registered and pending trademarks that might have a similar name trademarked for similar type of business.
- Fill out a DBA application form and submit it to the state or county agency that handles DBA registrations. You may need to provide information such as your legal name, your business entity name, your business address, your DBA name, and your business description. You may also need to pay a filing fee, which ranges from $10 to $100, depending on your location.
- Publish a notice of your DBA name in a local newspaper or other publication, as required by your state or county. You may need to publish the notice for a certain number of weeks or days, and provide proof of publication to the agency that registered your DBA name.
- Renew your DBA name periodically, as required by your state or county. You may need to renew your DBA name every year, every five years, or every 10 years, depending on your location. You may also need to pay a renewal fee, which is usually lower than the initial filing fee.
Advantages of Filing a DBA
Filing a DBA name can have some advantages for your business, such as:
- Enhancing your brand identity and recognition. A DBA name can help you create a memorable and catchy name for your business that reflects your products or services, and attracts more customers.
- Increasing your marketing and advertising opportunities. A DBA name can help you promote your business on different platforms, such as social media, websites, business cards, signs, and flyers.
- Expanding your business to new markets or locations. A DBA name can help you enter new markets or locations where your existing name is not available or suitable, and avoid potential conflicts or lawsuits with other businesses that have similar names.
- Opening a business bank account or obtaining a business license. A DBA name can help you open a business bank account or obtain a business license under your business name, instead of your personal name. This can help you separate your personal and business finances, and appear more professional and credible to your customers and suppliers.
Disadvantages of Filing a DBA
Filing a DBA name can also have some disadvantages for your business, including:
- Incurring additional costs and paperwork. Filing a DBA name can involve paying filing and renewal fees, publishing notices, and keeping track of deadlines and requirements. These can add up to your business expenses and administrative tasks.
- Not providing any legal protection or liability separation. Filing a DBA name does not create a separate legal entity for your business, nor does it protect your name from being used by others. You still need to form a business entity, such as a corporation or an LLC, and register a trademark, if you want to enjoy these benefits.
- Not guaranteeing the availability or exclusivity of your name. Filing a DBA name does not mean that your name is available or exclusive in every state or county. You still need to check the availability and conflicts of your name in each jurisdiction where you want to do business, and register your name accordingly.
The Bottom Line
A DBA name is a name that you use to conduct business under, instead of your legal name or your business entity name. You don’t need to have a matching business name and trademark, nor do you need to have a business name at all to register a trademark. However, there are some advantages and disadvantages of using a different name for your trademark than your business name. If you decide to use a DBA name for your business, you need to register it with the appropriate authority in your state or county, and comply with the rules and regulations of each jurisdiction where you want to do business. Have additional questions? Contact us today!