DBAs & Assumed Names

Doing Business As 'name'

Individuals, that is, human beings, are what the law calls “natural persons.” A natural person’s full name, as given at birth or as later legally changed, is the individual’s true name. Some entities, like corporations and limited liability companies, are formed by the filing of articles of incorporation or articles of organization with an appropriate filing office. The true name of such an entity is whatever name is specified in the filed formative document. Some entities can be formed other than by filing “articles” with any particular office: a general partnership, for example. The true name of a general partnership includes the full name of each partner. There are still further rules for determining the true name of other entities or organizations.

Sometimes it is useful to use a name other than one’s true name. In that case, one can assume a different name, an assumed name, also sometimes called a “DBA” because one is “doing business as” the assumed name. However, there are requirements for, and limitations on, assumed names.

In some jurisdictions, including Minnesota, one cannot do business under a name other than one’s true name without registering an assumed name. There are penalties for noncompliance with this requirement, and one could be exposed to claims if somebody else already has rights in a particular name.

Generally, a new assumed name must be distinguishable from all existing assumed names in the particular jurisdiction. Some characteristics of an assumed name may be “standardized,” also, meaning that “and” and “&” may be considered to be the same and “ViZionarY” and “Vizionary” may be considered to be the same. It is prudent to search for existing assumed names before deciding on a new assumed name.

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Also, one cannot use an assumed name that includes a designation as an entity of a type other than what one really is. For example, Murphy Washington could not assume “M. W. Corporation,” and XYZ Corp. could not assume “XYZ Partnership.”

And while successfully registering an assumed name satisfies a requirement to do so before doing business under that name, it does little more. Specifically, though it would prevent somebody else from registering that assumed name in the same jurisdiction, it does not prevent others from using that name or from registering that name in another jurisdiction. There are legal protections available for trademarks and service marks, and there may be legal protections available to prevent certain other uses of names; consider consulting an attorney for more information on this point.

Capitol Lien can assist with determining true names, checking the availability of new assumed names, registering assumed names, and filing amendments involving assumed names.