Many businesses operate using a fictitious business name as their public face. Both sole proprietors and business entities (e.g., LLCs or corporations) can use fictitious names. Sometimes this is done to clearly differentiate the business from the business owner’s name, sometimes it is done for branding purposes and sometimes it is done for marketing purposes.
Whatever the reason, most states and/or localities require you to register a fictitious name before using it to protect consumers against fraud.
This process is usually pretty simple. It usually involves filing an application with either a state or municipal agency and paying a fee. It may also require advertising the name to give public notice that you intend to use it.
To find out the requirements in your location, check with your state’s business office or your county clerk’s office. Either should be able to point you to the right office for filing. You can also use an outside service company to handle the filings for you.
A DBA or tradename can be different than your legal business name. As an example, your legal business name might be Sally Smith LLC, but your tradename is “Sally’s Interior Design.”
Tradenames are legal to use when doing business and usually must be registered through your local or state government. One business might have multiple tradenames or DBAs.
Corporations, LLCs, Partnerships and sole proprietors are all eligible to register a tradename.
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