We Know: What's a Fictitious Business Name

What is a fictitious business name?

An individual who chooses to use a business name other than their legal name is using a fictitious business name. Also known as Doing Business As (DBA), tradename, or assumed business name, a fictitious business name gives an individual with more than one type of business flexibility without having to create a new business entity. Fictitious business names must be registered with a state government agency, usually the county clerk's office.

How do you get a fictitious business name?

With most states, the procedures for obtaining a fictitious business name are as follows:

  1. Call the county clerk to get the requirements and forms necessary to obtain a fictitious business name.
  2. Conduct a search on the fictitious business names database to see if the name chosen for the business is unique. Trademark issues may need to be addressed.
  3. Complete the necessary paperwork to register the fictitious business name.
  4. File the paperwork with the county clerk, or the appropriate state agency, and pay the fees. Fees range from $10 to $50.
  5. Most states require that businesses publish the fictitious business name with the local newspaper and submit proof of this action. Local newspapers can help if there are any questions.

Check with your local governmental agency for the procedures needed to obtain a fictitious business name.

When is a fictitious business name necessary and how long is it good for?

A fictitious business name must be registered with the government agency before the first business transaction, or within 40 days of the first business transaction. Fictitious business names require renewals every five years.

Why does a fictitious business name need to be registered with the government agency?

The primary reason for using a fictitious business name is accountability. Fictitious business name must be registered with a government agency. This action alone provides a paper trail if customers have a complaint against the company, preventing fraud. Registering a fictitious business name also allows parties to legally enforce contracts. Finally, banks will not allow businesses to open bank accounts if a fictitious business name has not been registered with the proper agencies.

What is a trademark?

When searching for a fictitious business name, trademark considerations come into play. Having a fictitious business name does not guarantee that the name is exclusive to that business only. Trademarking is a marketing strategy that prevents others from using your fictitious business name.

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