Registering a fictitious business name, also known as a trade or "doing business as" name, is a local process that is state, county or city specific. Some jurisdictions require business owners to place a notice in a local newspaper to complete the registration process to inform the public of the use of the name. These jurisdictions typically provide the locality-specific information you need to quickly satisfy this requirement.
Business Name Registration
New businesses are formed and registered under state laws. The proper way to name a business depends on its legal structure, as well as your state's business code. Your company's legal name is the one you used to register it with the state or the one you're required to use by law if no registration is necessary. Businesses can use a name that isn't the company's legal name when transacting business within a state by registering a DBA. The registration process ensures the public has a way to find out the legal name of the entity operating under the DBA.
Each state has its own process for registering DBAs that is either statewide or locally based at a county clerk's office or city agency. Generally, you must fill out a name registration statement that includes the DBA name you want to use, the legal name of the business and the company's contact information. You must then file the statement with the correct office along with a filing fee. Some jurisdictions also require you to have the name registration statement published in at least one local weekly newspaper for multiple weeks. Typically, the registrar provides a list of approved newspapers with contact information and pricing to make the task easier.
DBA Statement Publication
The newspapers on the approved list are likely well-versed in publishing DBA statements. In most instances, you can take a copy of the statement to the paper's local office or fax it over. Many papers have a standard format that they use to publish the information, so you don't have to worry about coming up with original copy or designing an ad. You likely will have to pay a publishing fee. After the notice runs for the required time period, you typically must obtain proof of publication form from the newspaper. You then need to file the proof with the DBA registrar's office to prove that you satisfied the publication requirement.
Electronic Publication System
Some newspapers also provide an electronic system for handling the publication of DBA statements via the Internet. Using the newspaper's website, you can enter the information from the name registration statement into a electronic form. You then pay for publication using a credit card. The newspaper may automatically send proof of publication to the address you specify.
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Register Your Fictitious or "Doing Business As" (DBA) Name
- Digital Media Law Project: Becoming a Sole Proprietor in Pennsylvania
- California Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development
- Sun Sentinel: Register a Fictitious Name for Your Business
- Financial News and Daily Record: Fictitious Name Publication
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