DBA stands for “Doing Business As.” It’s also known as a Fictitious Name or an Assumed Name. A DBA allows you to do business under a name that may be different than your legal business name.
To obtain a DBA, business owners can start by searching their state’s database to see if anyone else is using the fictitious name they desire. If it’s available, the business owner will need to submit a few forms and usually pay a small fee for the right to start conducting business under that name in the state. Though not necessary from a legal standpoint, it is wise to conduct a federal clearance search before adopting any brand and preemptively avoid potential infringement suits. To learn more about searches see our post here: https://jhrlegal.com/conducting-searches-on-a-trademark-before-filing/
A common misconception is that once a DBA or fictitious name is secured, the person or company using the name now has trademark rights. This is not the case.
It’s important to understand that a fictitious name does not give ownership rights or create a separate legal entity, but rather helps to describe a person or company who is doing business under another name. This provides clarity to both consumers and the state as to who is providing the services in question.
Please be aware, however, that entities can use an almost identical name as a registered DBA. For example, the only thing that would set the entity name “ABC Company, LLC” apart from the DBA, “ABC Company” is the LLC designation. According to most states, though, that one variation is enough to make the name “technically different” and would, therefore, be permissible.
Of course, this may be too close for your comfort. That’s where a trademark strategy comes in to play. If you use a DBA to represent your brand and it is distinct, you can apply for a trademark that would prevent competitors from using your name or a similar variation. This protection would not only extend to competitors in your state but throughout the country as trademarks offer federal protection.
The bottom line is that a DBA is a relatively easy and cost-effective way to secure a name for a new income stream, product, or service if you do not feel that your registered business name is reflective of what’s being offered to the public. Just know that the DBA itself will not provide you with exclusive trademark rights. If you seek a greater level of protection, you’ll want to talk to an attorney and take the next steps to apply for a trademark on the federal level.
If you’d like to discuss what a trademark strategy would look like in your business, our intellectual property attorneys are here to help. Simply contact us at 888-666-0062 to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.