A fictitious name (or a trade name, or DBA name) is an assumed business name. Unlike a corporate entity, a DBA name is not separate from the person who owns the DBA (Doing Business As) name, so it offers no lawsuit or judgment protection for the owner.
One of many judgment articles: I am a judgment broker, not a lawyer, and this article is my opinion based on my experience, please consult with a lawyer if you need legal advice.
A fictitious name is not your own name, or your partner’s name, or necessarily the official registered name of your corporation or LLC. The DBA name of your business is not as important as most people think.
Bing, Yahoo, and Google were once names for different things, it took many years of hard work and lots of money and brilliance; that made those names now stand primarily for searching the internet. However, most people will want to choose a name related to their skills or business. Once you register a name, you will want to put all your business efforts consistently in that name.
You can usually do business under your own name and will not necessarily need to register a fictitious business name. Not all states require the registration of fictitious business names or DBAs.
After you name your business, you will need to register the name with the appropriate government authority as a fictitious business name, also called Doing Business As (DBA). Besides individuals, sole proprietors, partnerships, corporations, and LLCs (and other entities) might want to do business under a DBA name.
Assumed business names must be registered with the appropriate government agency. Sometimes existing DBAs change names, and will need to register their new name. Unless one chooses a business name and registers it as a DBA or fictitious name, the legal name of the business defaults to the name of the person or entity owning the fictitious name.
For example, Mr. Frank Furter starts a computer consulting business. Rather than operate under his own name, Frank runs his business as “Frank Furter Consulting”. This is an assumed name, and Frank will need to register his fictitious name with the appropriate government agency.
Whatever name you choose, make sure it is not already being used by someone else. Is there a domain name already using your name on the web? One can also use the WHOIS database of domain names. It is a good idea to register your proposed DBA name early on social media sites. How will your name look on social media sites, the web, and as part of your logo?
Registering your fictitious business name or DBA does not provide any trademark protection. Before you register your DBA name, use the US Patent and Trademark office’s trademark Group search tool; to check if the name or a variation of it, is already trademarked. If so, pick a new name. It is relatively cheap to get a trademark, which protects words, names, symbols, and logos, which distinguishes goods and services.
If you intend to incorporate your business, you will need to contact your state’s filing office, to check whether your proposed business name has already been claimed. If you find a business operating under your proposed name, you may still be able to use it, if your business and the existing business offers different goods/services or are located in different states.
The fictitious name/DBA name of your business will be required on all government forms and applications, including tax returns, employer tax IDs, permits, and licenses.