A “Doing Business As” name is variously called a trade name, a fictitious business name or an assumed name. Whatever the terminology, a DBA is the business' operating name other than its legal name. For example, John Doe owns a restaurant as a sole proprietor, so his name is the business' legal name. However, he operates the restaurant under the DBA name, “Doe's Coffee Cafe.” Filing the DBA name of your business protects your right to the exclusive use of that name in your area.
Identify the government entity that handles fictitious business name registration in your area. DBA filings in each state are handled according to the rules of that state. In some states, the secretary of state's office processes DBA filings; in others, registration is a local function of the county clerk.
Verify that the business name you've picked out is not already being used by a similar business in your area. The office of the county clerk in the county where your business operates will have a list of trade names you can check. Alternatively, the secretary of state may maintain an online business name database you can search.
This step is essential because you may not duplicate the name of another, similar business within the jurisdiction where your business is located.
Complete the application form required to register your trade name. The secretary of state or county clerk usually provides application forms online for you to download and print. Each jurisdiction creates its own form, but in general, you must furnish the following information:
- Legal name of your company, partnership or business owner
- Street address of the business and mailing address if different
- Business phone number
- Your DBA name
- Type of business entity: sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation
- Kind of business conducted. For example, car repair shop, retail store or restaurant
Take the completed application to a notary public. Sign your name on the form only in the presence of the notary. If the business is a partnership, each owner must sign. Submit the original form bearing the notary seal to your county clerk or secretary of state along with a check or money order for the filing fee.
Some states and counties require that you place an ad in a local newspaper to notify the public that you've filed a DBA form. For example, in Georgia you must run the ad for two consecutive weeks in a publication designated by the county clerk. The cost of legal notices is your responsibility and is not included in the DBA filing fee.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, William Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about small business, finance and economics issues for publishers like Chron Small Business and Bizfluent.com. Adkins holds master's degrees in history of business and labor and in sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.