The legal name of a business is the name of the person or entity that owns a business. If you are the sole owner of your business, its legal name is your full name. If your business is a partnership, the legal name is the name given in your partnership agreement or the last names of the partners. For limited liability corporations (LLCs) and corporations, the business' legal name is the one that was registered with the state government.
Your business' legal name is required on all government forms and applications, including your application for employer tax IDs, licenses and permits. However, if you want to open a shop or sell your products under a different name, then you may have to file a "fictitious name" registration form with your government agency.
A fictitious name (or assumed name, trade name, or DBA name, short for "doing business as") is a business name that is different than your personal name, the names of your partners or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation.
For example, let's say Mary Smith is a sole proprietor of a catering company she runs out of her house. Mary wants to name her business Seaside Catering instead using her business' legal name, Mary Smith. In order to use Seaside Catering, Mary will need to register that name as a fictitious business name with a government agency. Which government agency, depends on where she lives. In some states, fictitious names are registered with the state government; in others, you register fictitious names with the county clerk's office; and in others, there are no laws requiring businesses to register a fictitious business names.
The following chart provides the requirements for fictitious name filing in all 50 states and territories.
|State||DBA Filing Requirements|
|Alabama||Alabama does not require businesses to register a fictitious name. However, businesses may elect to register a trade name with the Secretary of State.
|Alaska||Register a Business Name in Alaska|
|Arizona|| The registration of trade names is not required in Arizona but is an accepted business practice, and can help avoid another business from using your business name. Trade names are registered with the Secretary of State:
Application for Trade Name Registration
Trade Name Registration Information
|Arkansas|| Any sole proprietorship or general partnership operating under a name other than the owners must file a Doing Business Under an Assumed Name Certificate.
Domestic and foreign corporations must file an Application for Fictitious Name with the Secretary of State. Domestic corporations must also register with the county clerk of the county in which the corporation's registered office is located (unless it is located in Pulaski County). Fees vary depending on entity.
|California||Individuals or entities doing business for profit under a name different from the owner(s) full legal name(s) must file a Fictitious Name Statement with the County Recorder-Clerk's Office where the business will be conducted.|
|Colorado||Register a Trade Name Online|
|Connecticut||Any person doing business in Connecticut under any name other than their own, must either register a trade name in the town where their business is conducted or register with the Connecticut Secretary of State as a corporation.|
|Delaware||For sole proprietorships and general partnerships, Fictitious Name Certificates are registered in the Superior Court Prothonotary's office in the county in which you are doing business:
New Castle County Fictitious Name Certificate
Kent County - call for form (302) 739-3184
Sussex County - call for form (302) 856-5742
|District of Columbia||Individuals, corporations or partnerships may register a business name (trade name) different from the entity's true name. However, you do not need to register the name used for your corporation, partnership, or LLC as your trade name, since it is considered your true name.|
|Florida||All Florida businesses operating under a fictitious name must register with the Division Corporations,Online Fictitious Name Registration.|
|Georgia||Individuals or entities doing business under a name different from the owner(s) full legal name(s) must complete a Trade Name Filing with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where the business is principally located.
If you incorporate your business with the Secretary of State, registering a corporate name does not control the use of fictitious or trade names, and issuance of a corporate name does not affect the commercial availability of the name.
|Guam||Rules for the Use of Fictitious Names in Guam
Certificate of Transacting Business Under a Fictitious Name
|Hawaii||Application for Registration of Trade Name
Trade Name Registration Information
|Idaho||Assumed Business Name Registration Forms|
|Illinois||When a business name is different from the owner(s) full legal name(s), the Illinois Assumed Name Act requires sole proprietorships and general partnerships to register with their local county clerk's office. Corporations, LLCs, LLPs, and limited partnerships register an assumed name as part of their required business filings with the Illinois Secretary of State.|
|Indiana||If a business is using a name other than its official name, it must file a Certificate of Assumed Business Name with the county recorder of each county in which it has a place of business, and with the Secretary of State. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships need only file at the county recorder level.|
|Iowa||Sole proprietorships and general partnerships doing business under assumed name must file a Trade Name Report with the local County Recorder's office. This rule does not apply to corporations, LLCs, LLPs, and limited partnerships registered with the Iowa Secretary of State.|
|Kansas||The State of Kansas does not require a business to register an assumed business name.|
|Kentucky|| Corporations, a non-profits, LLCs and partnerships (general, limited, and limited liability) must file a Certificate of Assumed Name with the Kentucky Secretary of State.
Sole proprietorships should file an assumed name certificate with the county clerk's office where the business is located.
|Louisiana|| Sole proprietorships and general partnerships operating under an assumed name must register with the Parish Clerk of Court office where the business is located.
You may download the Application to Register a Trade Name, get it notarized, and submit it to your Parish Clerk of Court office.
Corporations, non-profits, LLCs, LLPs, and limited partnerships must submit the application to the Louisiana Secretary of State.
|Maine||Sole proprietorships and general partnerships doing business under an assumed name are required to file a certificate with the municipal or town clerk where the business is located.
Corporations, LLCs, LLPs, and limited partnerships register a Statement of Intention to do Business under an Assumed or Fictitious Name with the Maine Secretary of State.
|Maryland||Trade Name Registration Info - Addresses and phone numbers for help applying for a trade name in Maryland.
Trade Name Application
|Massachusetts||Massachusetts requires anyone who is conducting business under an alias (i.e., any name other than their own), including corporations, to file a business certificate ("doing business as") in the city or town in which where the business is principally headquartered|
|Michigan||Sole proprietorships and general partnerships using a business name other than the legal names of the owner(s) must file an Assumed Name Certificate with the county clerk under which the person(s) will do business. Corporations, LLCs, LLPs, and limited partnerships register an assumed name as part of their required business filings with the Michigan Secretary of State.|
|Minnesota||Minnesota Secretary of State - Assumed Name Registration|
|Mississippi||The State of Mississippi does not require a business to register an assumed business name.|
|Missouri||Missouri law requires any person or business entity which transacts business in the state under a name other than their own “true name to register that business name with the Secretary of State’s Office as a Fictitious Name Registration.
Online Registration of Fictitious Name
|Montana||Montana Secretary of State:
Application for Reservation of Name
Application for Registration of Assumed Business Name
|Nebraska||Nebraska Secretary of State - Application for Registration of Trade Name|
|Nevada||All persons and entities doing business in the state of Nevada under an assumed or fictitious name that is different from the legal name must file a Fictitious Firm Name Certificate with the County Clerk of each county in which the business is being conducted|
|New Hampshire||New Hampshire Secretary of State - Trade Name Registration Forms|
|New Jersey|| Sole proprietorships and general partnerships doing business under an assumed name should register with the county clerk office where business will be conducted.
For profit and non-profit corporations, limited liability companies and limited partnerships may legal do business under an alternate name by registering with the New Jersey Division of Revenue.
|New Mexico||The State of New Mexico does not require a business to register an assumed business name.|
|New York||Sole proprietorships using a name other than the owner's name should file a Business Certificate with the County Clerk's Office in the county where the business is located.
General partnerships operating a business under an assumed name should file a Business Certificate for Partners with the County Clerk's Office in the county where the business is located.
Corporations, LLCs, LLPs, and limited partnerships register an assumed name as part of their required business filings with the New York Department of State.
|North Carolina||Certificate of Assumed Name Forms - includes links to online forms that are to be filed at the County Register of Deeds Office in the county in which your business is conducted.|
|North Dakota||North Dakota Secretary of State - Trade Name Registration|
|Ohio||Ohio Secretary of State - Trade Name Registration Forms|
|Oklahoma||Oklahoma Secretary of State - Trade Name Registration|
|Oregon||Oregon Secretary of State - Assumed Name Registration|
|Pennsylvania||Pennsylvania Department of State:
Fictitious Name Registration Requirements
Application for Registration of Fictitious Name
|Puerto Rico||Businesses in Puerto Rico can both register their trademark and a trade name (i.e. fictitious name) through the Department of State's Registry of Marks and Commercial Names: Registro de marcas y nombres comerciales (Registry of marks and commercial names).|
|Rhode Island||Businesses operating under an assumed name may be required to file an assumed name certificate with the city or town clerk in which the business is located. In addition, all corporations, LLCs, LLPs, and limited partnerships conducting business in Rhode Island must register an Fictitious Business Name Statement with Rhode Island Secretary of State.|
|South Carolina|| Businesses operating under an fictitious or assumed name are not are required to register with a government agency.
Only foreign businesses may adopt a fictitious name. A fictitious name can be obtained for a foreign (out of state) business that is authorized to transact business in the state because its legal entity name is already registered in South Carolina. Visit the South Carolina Secretary of State for more information.
|South Dakota||South Dakota Secretary of State - Fictitious Business Name Registration|
|Tennessee||Tennessee does not require registration or filing of DBAs or fictitious names for sole proprietorships and general partnerships. Corporations, LLCs, LLPs, and limited partnerships register an assumed name as part of their required business filings with the Tennessee Secretary of State.|
|Texas||All businesses in Texas operating under an assumed name bust file an Assumed Name Certificate with the County Clerk's Office in the count which the business primarily located.
Corporations, LLCs, LLPs, and limited partnerships must file an Assumed Name Certificate with the Texas Secretary of State in addition to a separate Assumed Name Certificate with the county in which the registered business' main office is located.
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Lieutenant Governor of the Virgin Islands - Certificate for Registration of Trade Name|
|Utah||All Utah businesses operating under an assumed name must file a Business Name Registration / DBA Application. For more information, visit these resources:
Information for Corporations
Information for Sole Proprietorships and General Partnerships
|Vermont|| Register with the Vermont Secretary of State:
Trade Name Registration Form
Trade Name Registration Information
|Virginia||If business is conducted in Virginia under a name other than the legal business name, an assumed or fictitious name certificate must be filed in each county or city where business is to be conducted. In addition, if the entity is a limited partnership, a limited liability company, or a corporation, it must obtain a copy of each fictitious name certificate, attested by the Clerk of the Circuit Court where the original was filed, and file it with the Clerk of the State Corporation Commission.
Read the Virginia Business Registration Guide for more information on business registration requirements for all types of legal entities.
|Washington||Washington State Dept of Licensing - Trade Name Registration|
|West Virginia||West Virginia Secretary of State - Trade Name Registration|
|Wisconsin||State of Wisconsin - Registration of Firm Name (aka "Doing Business As")|
|Wyoming||All businesses may reserve or register a trade name with the Wyoming Department of State:
Trade Name Reservation Form
Trade Name Registration Form
All other business forms, including incorporation and trade name change, renewal and cancellation forms.