If you run a business under an assumed name in Ohio, you may want to set up a DBA. Short for “Doing Business As,” a DBA serves as an alternate title for your business. Often, a DBA is the name customers will use to refer to your company. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about DBAs: who needs one, who doesn’t, and two easy steps to filing with the state.
In Ohio, the DBA is more commonly called a “Trade Name.” Essentially, they’re the same concept. “Trade Name” is just the terminology used by the state. For consistency, we’ll call it a Trade Name throughout the rest of this guide.
NOTE: Keep in mind that filing a trade name will not give your business protection through the corporate veil like an LLC will. If this is something you want or need, don’t fret, there are many online services that can help you take care of the paperwork.
Do You Need an Ohio Trade Name?
Not all business entities in Ohio need a Trade Name. Ordinarily, a business needs a Trade Name when the name of their business differs from the name registered with the state.
So let’s say that Lauren operates a sole proprietorship; her legal business formation documents list her full name as the legal owner of the business. But if she wants to run her shop under the name Sew Sweet Creations, she’d need to file a Trade Name in order to use that name. A Trade Name is also useful for corporations which want to establish additional businesses or locations with a name that’s different from the Corporation name.
Limited liability companies, nonprofit corporations, and corporations operating exclusively under the name on file with the state usually do not need a Trade Name. They may choose to use one if they want to establish a new product line or chain of businesses under their original parent company.
An Ohio Trade Name does present a few advantages. While it doesn’t offer any specific legal protections or tax incentives, a Trade Name allows you to get a business bank account. You can also give your customers peace of mind—most people are more comfortable writing a check to a business than an individual.
Ohio actually offers two filing options for these names. For one, you can file a Fictitious Name if you’ll be using a name that’s different from your legal entity name. This option does not offer any name protections. That protection comes from filing a Trade Name. Owners of Trade Names have exclusive rights to those names; Fictitious Names simply alert the state to the fact that you’re using a name.
1) File Your Trade Name or Fictitious Name with the Ohio Secretary of State
If you’re filing a Trade Name, you’ll need to be sure your name is available to use. Your name cannot infringe on names which have been registered with the Secretary of State, including legal entity names or other Trade Names. Fictitious Names do not need to be distinguishable, though you may want to make your name unique anyway.
You can run a Business Name Search to learn whether or not your name is available. This search will let you consult the state’s entire database of names. You should type in the exact name you wish to use; the tool will pull up any and all names which match it. Once these results appear, you’ll need to check the entity type of any exact matches.
If the match belongs to anything other than a Fictitious Name filing, you’ll need to make changes to your name. (Fictitious Names are not protected, so entities aren’t required to make their names distinguishable from Fictitious Names). This search is helpful, but the Secretary of State will give the final judgment about whether or not a name is available for you to use.
Once you’ve determined that your name is available, you can file a Name Registration. Both Fictitious Name and Trade Name filings use the same form. This form includes a cover letter with contact information, as well as a signature and information about the nature of your business, and of course, the name you wish to use.
There is a $39 filing fee for this application (plus additional fees to expedite, if you wish). You can pay by check or credit card, and you can file the form online or by mail. If you choose to file by mail, you must type it. Ohio does not accept handwritten forms.
2) Maintaining your Ohio Trade Name or Fictitious Name
Your initial registration is valid for five years. After that, if you want to continue using your name, you’ll need to submit a renewal form. You should file it within six months of the expiration date. Similarly, if you need to make a change to your name, you should file an update form.
Both forms can be filed online or by mail. The fee is $25.
Need Help Filing your Trade Name or Fictitious Name?
If this process sounds like a hassle, you can get help with setting up your business’s name with a service like Legalzoom. They make the process simple: you simply provide them with the necessary information about your company, and they’ll fill out the paperwork so you don’t have to. The process is both easy and affordable, letting you focus on running your business.
Your name is an important part of your business, but keeping compliant with state requirements can be tricky! We hope this guide made it quick and easy to set up your Ohio Trade Name.