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DBA – Notice, but No Protection

Logo for Quora, where Dana Shultz answered a question about a DBA providing notice but not protectionThis post discusses the purpose of a DBA (which is an abbreviation for “doing business as”). This expands upon a Quora answer that I wrote recently. Please see Can someone use my DBA if I operate as a sole proprietor?

Terminology

To start, I will note that business people frequently use the term “DBA”. It is short and easy to say, and people readily understand it.

There is, however, a more-formal legal term, which varies from state to state. For example, in California, the term is “fictitious business name”. In some other states, the term is “assumed business name”.

DBA Purpose: Public Protection

Applicable laws state that one must register a DBA with the appropriate governmental entity. This protects the public by putting others on notice that one is doing business under an artificial name.

Please note, though, that a DBA does not protect the business that is using the name. In my experience:

  • A local governmental entity will register a DBA so long as the applicable form is completed properly and the fee is paid.
  • That entity does not care whether another business already is using that name.
  • That entity does not care whether later starts using that name.

If you want to protect your business name so no one else may use for a similar type of business, you need to register a trademark (or a service mark).

One typically registers a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In addition, under certain circumstances one can register a trademark with a state.

For more information, please check out all posts about DBAs.

Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law +1 510-547-0545 dana [at] danashultz [dot] com
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