Doing business as
The phrase "doing business as" (abbreviated DBA, dba, d.b.a. or d/b/a) is a legal term used in the United States and Canada, meaning that the trade name or fictitious business name, under which the business or operation is conducted and presented to the world, is not the legal name of the legal person(s) who actually own the business and is subsequently responsible and liable for it. In many countries the expressions operating as (abbreviated o/a) or trading as (abbreviated t/a) are used for this purpose.
Where a desired name was not able to be registered by the business operator, or if that business is owned by a separate company, franchisee, or a sole proprietorship then transactions may take place under the doing business as name, however, legal agreements are made under the registered trade name of the business/owner.
The distinction between a registered trade and a "fictitious" name is important as businesses with the latter give no obvious indication to the entity that is legally responsible for their operation. Therefore fictitious doing business as names do not create legal entities in and of themselves; they are merely names assumed by existing persons or entities.
In Canada, the term operating as (abbreviated to o/a) is used. In some jurisdictions, when a businessperson writes a trade name on a contract, invoice, or check, he or she must also add the legal name of the business. An example of a jurisdiction that mandates this is Ontario, Canada.
Numbered companies will very often operate as something other than their legal name, which is unrecognizable to the public.
Trading as or t/a abbreviation
In the United Kingdom there is no filing requirement for a "trading as" name, however, there are requirements for disclosure of the owner's true name and some restrictions on the use of certain names.
In several U.S. states, DBAs are officially referred to using another term. Oregon uses Assumed Business Names; Washington calls DBAs trade names; other states refer to trade styles or fictitious business names.
For consumer protection purposes, many U.S. jurisdictions require businesses operating with fictitious names to file a DBA statement, though names including the first and last name of the owner may be excepted. This also reduces the possibility of two local businesses operating under the same name. Note, though, that this is not a substitute for filing a trademark application. A DBA filing carries no legal weight in establishing trademark rights. In the U.S., trademark rights are acquired by use in commerce, but there can be substantial benefits to filing a trademark application.
DBA statements are often used in conjunction with a franchise. The franchisee will have a legal name under which it may sue and be sued, but will conduct business under the franchiser's brand name (which the public would recognize). A typical real-world example can be found in a well-known pricing mistake case, Donovan v. RRL Corp., 26 Cal. 4th 261 (2001), where the named defendant, RRL Corporation, was a Lexus car dealership doing business as "Lexus of Westminster", but remaining a separate legal entity from Lexus, a Division of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
In California, filing a DBA statement also requires that a notice of the fictitious name be published in local newspapers for some set period of time to inform the public of the owner's intent to operate under an assumed name. The intention of the law is to protect the public from fraud, by compelling the business owner to first file or register his fictitious business name with the county clerk, and then making a further public record of it by publishing it in a newspaper.
- United States case: Pinkerton's, Inc. v. Superior Court, 49 Cal. App. 4th 1342, 1348 (1996).
- Business Names Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. B.17, s. 2(6)
- Companies House Booklet GP1, Chapter 10
- Oregon Business Information Center FAQ from the Oregon Secretary of State
- Washington State Department of Licensing FAQ: Trade name registration
- "Doing Business As: What Is It and Do You Need It?; Freshbooks Blog May 7, 2013".
- "Protecting Your Trademark" (PDF). booklet. US Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
- Hanson, Mary. "Corporate Names, Trade Names, Trademarks, and Fictitious Names". The Business Advisor. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
- California Business and Professions Code §§17900-17930 governing fictitious business names
- Oregon Revised Statutes Chapter 648 governing Assumed Business Names
- Revised Code of Washington Title 19.80 on Trade names