Whether you are starting a new business or already doing business in Massachusetts, you’ve probably wondered about a way to brand your business so it stands out from the crowd. Sure, you can use your own name or that of your entity. But, you may have chosen that name to reflect ownership, such as using the last names of you and your partners or the town that you live in. These may be fine for you and your company, but it won’t always work for marketing purposes. This is why Massachusetts allows individuals and business entities to register Doing Business As (DBA) names. These provide the ability to sell your goods and services under a name designed to help you boost sales. This is why DBA names are also known as trade names, fictitious names, and assumed names. No matter what you call them, they can be very useful tools for your business. Let’s take a closer look at how you can use a DBA name for yourself or your business while exploring the pros and cons of using DBA names.
How do I register a DBA name?
The first step with a DBA name is to choose one that is novel and unique, so your business stands out from the pack. Still, you have to make sure the name is available. This is why you need to perform a name search in the Massachusetts state records as well as in the city and town directory. If no one else is using the name, then you can go ahead with your filing.
You should keep in mind that certain words are not allowed to be included in your DBA name in Massachusetts. For example, you cannot use any business entity suffix like LLC, Inc., or LP, since these imply that your business has been formed in this way. You also cannot use any words that imply illegal purposes like drugs or prostitution, as well as that your government is a government entity. Finally, you can only use DBA names like bank, attorneys, or optometrist if you or someone on your staff holds a license for such a purpose. If you plan to use one of these words, you will need to file additional paperwork confirming licensure.
Once you have confirmed the availability of your chosen DBA name, you will need to file paperwork with the town clerk in the town in which your business operates. If you are located in Boston, this filing will be made with the Boston City Clerk. The filing requires that the form be signed before a notary public and that the filing fee is paid in full.
Pros and Cons of DBAs
There are a number of benefits to using a DBA name for your business. They are easy to file and relatively inexpensive. If you are a sole proprietor, you won’t have to go through the cost and expense of forming an LLC or corporation, including needing to get a taxpayer ID number, setting up a separate bank account, and filing an annual tax return. Once you’ve filed for your DBA name, you are ready to go.
DBA names also allow you to easily brand your product or service. Unless you are planning to take your business nationwide, a DBA will be sufficient to do business here in Massachusetts. This is much more cost-effective than filing for a trademark for your business.
Another thing that is great about DBA names is that you can differentiate your various products or services by giving them each a different DBA name. For sole proprietors, this also helps give them a level of privacy as well.
Nevertheless, there are a number of potential drawbacks to using a DBA name. If you use a DBA name for a sole proprietorship, you do not get any asset or liability protection. While you may be operating under this fictitious name, you are still personally liable for any of the debts and expenses of your business. Similarly, if you do have a corporation or LLC, using multiple DBA names for different products and services could expose each of your business segments to liability for each other. Additionally, operating under a DBA does not offer any tax benefits. Finally, a DBA name does not have the same strengths and protections as a trademark. While you can prevent others from using the name, the process of enforcing your DBA name can be more difficult than if you are holding a trademark.
When you are ready to establish your business
We are experienced in all aspects of the laws governing doing business in Massachusetts. We can help guide you through the process, making sure that the entity type or DBA name you use is the right approach for your business.