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What’s the Difference Between DBAs and Trademarks? by @DeborahSweeney

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Many entrepreneurs new to the world of small business may find themselves easily mixing up the industry’s terminology and assorted acronyms. Trademarks, copyrights, dissolutions, EINS, DBAs, SUI, LLC… You may need to write the definitions down in order to memorize them at first!

Trademarks and DBAs, in particular, often get mistaken as being essentially the same concept when they couldn’t be more different. However, their sole similarity is that they both offer protection for small businesses. If you aren’t clear about the difference between the two terms, here’s a briefing that defines both and what they can do for your startup.

What’s a DBA?

DBAs go by a few different terms. There’s the Doing Business As name, which is what the acronym stands for, and fictitious name. By filing for a DBA, your company can conduct business and receive payment for its services under a name that is different from its legal name.

Why would you want to do business under a different name anyway? More often than not, entrepreneurs file DBAs as a fraud prevention measure. Your DBA name will still identify your business, but it will discourage anyone from registering for your name. In the meantime, having claimed a DBA name for yourself will allow you to create a business identity for your customers and vendors, market and advertise your company publicly, and open a business bank account to collect checks and payments under your business name. That last one is especially important because most banks won’t allow you to open a business bank account unless they have a certified copy of your DBA.

Ready to file? Check with your state or county that you’re business in first to see if you need to register a DBA since some states don’t require a formal registration. If you do need to register a fictitious name, file as soon as possible with your state government or county clerk’s office. You’ll need to pay a processing fee and identify your business with either your Social Security Number or EIN (Employer Identification Number) when filing and the registration process typically takes anywhere between one to four weeks.

What’s a trademark?

While a DBA may identify your business, a trademark goes a step further in making your business name your property. You can also trademark more than your company name too! Logos, slogans, and taglines also qualify as eligible for trademark registration. These are all distinctive words, phrases, symbols, and designs that are unique to your business and help distinguish your brand from that of the competition.

If you’ve already put in all of the hard work of dreaming up these original marks and conducted searches to ensure that nobody else was using them, protect them by filing for exclusive ownership. You can file a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Once you’ve registered the mark, nobody else will be allowed to use or plagiarize your trademark. One extra perk to filing a trademark? As long as you pay your fees and file the necessary documents, these marks never expire and can protect your small business for as long as they are in use!

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