Starting Out

DBAs and Trademarks: What’s the Difference?

Do you know the difference between a DBA and a trademark? It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to confuse the two terms. However, each has a different meaning. A DBA, or doing business as name, is not the same as a trademark. What does each term mean? How can filing for a DBA or submitting a … Continued

Do you know the difference between a DBA and a trademark?

It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to confuse the two terms. However, each has a different meaning. A DBA, or doing business as name, is not the same as a trademark.

What does each term mean? How can filing for a DBA or submitting a trademark application help benefit your business? Let’s take a closer look.

Why Do DBAs and Trademarks Get Confused?

Before we look at DBAs and trademarks, it’s important to have a little background information on why these two terms often get confused with one another.

A trademark protects media that distinguishes a business. One of the most popular examples of a trademark is a business name. A DBA is also a business name. The similarity that a DBA shares with a trademark is that both protect the name of the business.

A DBA differs from a trademark in that a DBA is not a corporate name. Filing for a trademark grants the owner exclusive rights to the name at the federal level. This ensures that nobody else is allowed to infringe upon that trademark.  

Filing for a DBA allows the owner to claim the name on a state level. For example, if you file a DBA in the state of California that is your DBA. Nobody else can claim that name in the same state. However, let’s say a business in the next state over, like Oregon, wants to file a DBA of the same name. They may file for this DBA and claim that name to use for their business so long as no other businesses in Oregon already have or are using that DBA.

What is a DBA?

Now that we have a better understanding of the difference between a DBA and trademark, let’s explore more about DBAs.

A doing business as name (DBA) is the official and public registration of a name under which you do business. DBAs go by a few different names with the Secretary of State. Some of these include assumed names, trade names, and fictitious names.

DBA Benefits

Filing for and registering a DBA allows the business to receive a few benefits:

  • Doing business under a different name. Is your company planning to conduct business under a name that is not the same as the business owner’s legal name? You must file for a DBA. This will allow you to accept money and conduct business under the fictitious name.
  • Open a business bank account. There are certain requirements for opening a business bank account, like obtaining an EIN federal tax ID. Business owners cannot use their personal bank account to issue or receive checks under their business name. They need to open a business bank account and that requires a DBA. Most banks require a certified copy of your trade name before you can open a business bank account. Once you have a trade name, you may start collecting checks and payments under the business’s fictitious name.
  • Creating a separate business identity. An assumed name gives business owners the chance to establish a separate business identity for customers and vendors. This builds credibility for your business and establishes it in a professional light.
  • Public marketing and advertising. Now that your business name is publicly registered, you can start publicly marketing and advertising.
  • Discourage others from using the fictitious name. This is particularly true of any entrepreneurs in your state that wish to use a trade name. Their business will be unable to use it. They will need to choose another name.

Filing for a DBA

A DBA is a way to claim your business’s name, but only as far as the state level. Conduct a name search prior to your trade name filing. This allows you to see if the fictitious name is already registered with the state. If not, you may submit your DBA application and filing fee for the trade name.  

Once you receive the assumed name, store the documentation in a safe place. You may also be asked by your state of incorporation to publish information about the DBA in a local newspaper. Check in with your local Secretary of State to see if this applies to your business.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark can be applicable to more than a business name. Logos, designs, symbols, and phrases can all be registered trademarks for businesses. These marks are original and unique. Trademarks help businesses gain recognition with customers. It also helps differentiate your business from its competition.

As such, filing for a federal trademark helps protect this unique intellectual property (IP). It gives the owner exclusive rights to the mark. That means only the owner has the rights to use the mark.

Filing for a Trademark

A trademark filing starts with a name search. Conduct a name search with the USPTO or through a third-party service like MyCorporation.

A name search allows you to see if the trademark is already registered or pending registration. If you find this is the case, you may not register the trademark. What if the mark is available? Then, it is a good idea to go ahead and file a trademark application. This allows you to reserve the mark and protect your business’s valuable IP.

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