DBA written on wooden blocks
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By Richard Gearhart
Founding Partner

A “Doing Business As” (DBA) is an assumed name that a business may operate under, distinct from its legal, registered name. Small business owners often use a DBA for branding or when they wish to branch into new markets. Understanding how to properly file and use a DBA is crucial for compliance and effective business operation.

Understanding DBAs

A DBA, short for “Doing Business As,” allows businesses to operate under a name different from their official, legal name. It’s particularly useful for sole proprietors and partnerships that want to do business under a name that more accurately reflects their brand or services, rather than using personal names. For corporations and LLCs, a DBA enables the operation of different ventures or branches without the need to create separate legal entities. DBAs are not just cosmetic; they’re a legal necessity in many jurisdictions if you’re trading under a name that’s not your registered business name. It’s essential to understand when a DBA is required and the legal implications of using one to ensure compliance and protect your business identity.

The Process of Filing for a DBA

  • Researching DBA Requirements: Start by checking local and state regulations, as DBA filing procedures vary. Visit your county clerk’s office or state government website for specific guidelines, ensuring your chosen business name is unique and adheres to naming rules.
  • Preparing Necessary Documentation: Fill out the required DBA registration form, which typically asks for details like your business’s legal name, the desired DBA name, and your contact information. Some states may also require additional documents, such as proof of business registration or identification.
  • Filing and Fee Payment: Submit the completed DBA form to the appropriate government office, often the county clerk or a state agency, along with the filing fee. Fees vary by location but are generally modest. Some jurisdictions might require publishing your DBA in a local newspaper for a set period.

Benefits of Having a DBA for Your Small Business

Having a DBA offers numerous benefits for small businesses. Primarily, it enables businesses to create a marketable brand name, more reflective of their products or services, without the need for forming a new legal entity. This branding can significantly aid in marketing and customer recognition. A DBA also facilitates financial transactions under the business name, allowing for the opening of business bank accounts and processing of checks and payments under the business name. Additionally, it provides a level of privacy for sole proprietors, as it separates the individual’s personal name from the business entity. Overall, a DBA enhances professional credibility and can open doors to new opportunities and growth for small businesses.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When filing for a DBA, common mistakes can lead to delays or legal complications. One key error is neglecting thorough research on the name’s availability, which could result in unintentional infringement on existing trademarks or brand names. Another mistake is failing to adhere to local filing requirements, such as incorrect or incomplete paperwork, or not publishing the DBA in a local newspaper if required by local laws. Businesses often overlook the necessity of renewing their DBA, leading to lapses in legal protection. Avoiding these pitfalls is important for a smooth and compliant business operation.

How We Can Help

Our legal team at Gearhart Law offers comprehensive assistance with DBA filings, ensuring a seamless and compliant process. We provide personalized guidance on choosing an appropriate DBA name, completing and submitting paperwork correctly, and meeting all local legal requirements. Our support extends beyond filing, as we also help maintain your DBA status, ensuring ongoing compliance and protection for your business.

Contact an Experienced Small Business Attorney

If you’re considering a DBA for your business, don’t hesitate to reach out to Gearhart Law for legal guidance and support. Our experienced team is ready to assist you in every step of the process, ensuring your business is set up for success. 

About the Author
Richard Gearhart, Esq. is the founder of Gearhart Law and the host of a weekly radio show for entrepreneurs called “Passage to Profit”. He has built a firm with an international presence that helps entrepreneurs from around the world with their patent, trademark and copyright needs. Richard commands a breadth of experience that comes from nearly 30 years of practice in the writing and prosecution of hundreds of patents, and in all aspects of Intellectual Property law. In 2022, Richard was recognized by ROI New Jersey as a 2022 ROI Influencer in the Law List category for being one of the best of the best in New Jersey for intellectual property law. Gearhart Law emerged from Richard’s passion for entrepreneurship and startups and his belief that entrepreneurship grows the economy and creates jobs. When we started Gearhart Law, our goal was to help and support the new business ventures of 500 entrepreneurs and inventors. After 12 years, the firm has far surpassed this goal; today, we look forward to helping even more inventors and entrepreneurs get off to a great start and reach their own goals.