A business owner using a fictitious name, trade name or assumed name -- commonly called “doing business as” or DBA -- must register it with a government office in most states, either at the state or county level. Because your customers and the general public will associate your DBA with your products or services, it is important to properly maintain your DBA by extending or renewing it as required by law. If you fail to properly maintain your DBA, you run the risk of another business or person registering it, which will prevent you from using it.
Duration of Your DBA
State laws regarding the duration of a DBA vary significantly. In most states, it will expire five years after it was originally registered, such as in Vermont and California. A few states, such as Texas, allow DBAs to be effective for 10 years. Under Colorado law, a DBA's duration depends on the type of business -- a sole proprietorship DBA filing lasts one year, while corporate DBA filings last as long as the corporation is in good standing. In Nevada, state law gives each county the discretion whether to limit the duration of a DBA filing to five years.
Renewing Your DBA Before It Expires
The renewal procedures regarding a DBA likewise vary from state to state, which makes it imperative to consult your state law about renewal procedures when you first file. Some states, such as California, require filing a renewal before the expiration date, while other states, like Vermont, give you a period of time after the expiration date to file for renewal. Failing to renew on time can result in a higher costs to keep your DBA, such as in California, where initial filings require publication of the DBA and renewals do not. If you do not renew your DBA on time in California, you will have file it as a new registration and incur the publication costs again.
Changes in Your Business Ownership or Structure
The primary purpose of a DBA is to give public notice regarding the identity of the owners using the DBA. States with mandatory DBA registration also require you to amend or refile your DBA when a change in your business ownership occurs, such as taking on a new partner, or a change in your business structure, such as incorporating. The deadline to refile varies by state. For example, Texas law requires a new DBA filing within 60 days of the change and Nevada law requires a new filing within one month.
Extending the Locations for Your DBA
In states where you register your DBA with a state agency, such as the secretary of state's office, you DBA is effective throughout the state. However, most states require registration of DBAs with the county clerk or recorder office. In these states, your DBA is effective only in the county where it is registered. To extend the effectiveness of your DBA in these states, you must register your DBA in all counties where you do business.
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Register Your Fictitious or 'Doing Business As' (DBA) Name
- Vermont Legislature: 11 V.S.A. § 1635. Reregistration
- Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk: Fictitious Business Names
- Texas Secretary of State: Form 503 — General Information (Assumed Name Certificate)
- Colorado Secretary of State: Business FAQs
- Nevada Legislature: Chapter 602 -- Doing Business Under Assumed or Fictitious Name
Joe Stone is a freelance writer in California who has been writing professionally since 2005. His articles have been published on LIVESTRONG.COM, SFgate.com and Chron.com. He also has experience in background investigations and spent almost two decades in legal practice. Stone received his law degree from Southwestern University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from California State University, Los Angeles.