How to Get an Ohio DBA in 4 Steps

Ohio small businesses can operate under a different name than what was filed at formation. Entrepreneurs do this by filing a "DBA" or "doing business as" name registration form. A DBA is also known as an "assumed name," "fictitious name," an "alias," or a "trade name."

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Registering a DBA in Ohio is similar to filing for a business license or forming a new business. The registration will vary depending on several factors. Ohio law does not allow a DBA registration but instead offers a trade name registration or fictitious name registration. These are two distinct options, but for the sake of this article, we will use "DBA" interchangeably.

This FindLaw article breaks down the process for an Ohio DBA registration.

4 Steps To File a DBA in Ohio


Decide if a DBA Is Right for Your Business

A DBA or assumed business name is any name that a business uses that differs from its legal name. DBAs are available for either incorporated entities (LLCs, corporations, nonprofits, etc.) or sole proprietorships.

It's your decision whether to use a fictitious name or the business's legal name.

DBA Advantages

The most common use of a DBA is in a sole proprietorship or a partnership where the business name differs from the full legal name of the person operating the business. You could register your full legal name as your business name.

It is a slightly different question—and process—if the registering business is a corporation or limited liability company (LLC). A registered corporation or LLC does not need a DBA to operate. However, it must file a DBA registration if it wants to do business under another name. An example would be a restaurant holding company: "XYZ Holdings DBA Slidell McDonalds."

You can use a DBA for advertising, opening a business bank account, and accepting credit cards as a merchant. Use it to simplify a corporate name, introduce a new product line, or instead of a person's name.

There are no limits to how many DBAs an underlying business entity or sole proprietor has. Rather than form a new business or LLC each time, you can file an Ohio DBA as many times as you want.

DBA Disadvantages

A DBA is not a legal entity or type of business structure. It does not protect the business owner like forming an LLC. An LLC or other business structure would protect the owner's personal assets in a lawsuit. A DBA can not do that.

The underlying Ohio legal entity is responsible for sales tax, generating an employer identification number (EIN) or tax ID, obtaining business permits and licenses, and insuring the business. You can use the underlying legal entity's tax identification numbers to open a bank account in the DBA name. The underlying legal entity's registered agent remains the DBA's registered agent.


Determine Your Business Name

Once you decide a DBA is suitable for you, it's time to pick a name.

First, conduct a business name search on the Ohio Secretary of State's website to ensure no one else uses that name.

Next, check the national United States Patent and Trademark Office. See if any similar names are registered that may cause confusion among consumers. If so, you should pick a new name to avoid trademark infringement.

Also, be very aware that there are certain words or designations that you cannot use in an Ohio DBA:

  • That is misleading about the nature of the business
  • Connected to the banking and insurance business unless licensed in those areas
  • Use a professional name (Doctor, Attorney at Law, etc.) unless licensed in those areas
  • Use any indication that the DBA is a corporation unless one of the entities named in the application for registration is itself a corporation. However, "company" is permissible for any fictitious name, regardless of the registrants' status.
  • You cannot use any words in the DBA name that are obscene or offensive to any group.

A DBA name that is not unique is a "fictitious name" under Ohio law. It still requires registration with Ohio. This could open your business up to potential trademark infringement claims. It is just not legally protected under Ohio law. If you create a unique Ohio name, register it as a trade name.


Own That Business Name

You can own your business name so no one else can use it. However, that name must be unique.

To begin with, you have to make sure that no one else can use it in business or on the internet. This means you have to ensure that no one else uses that name. Check to see the Internet Domain Name is available. Then follow the steps to own that domain name (that will only cost a few dollars).

If you expect to work in other states or have a truly unique name, you should trademark that name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This process takes time and money but allows you to recover attorney's fees and damages for someone else's use.

Once you receive your federal trademark, register that trademark in Ohio. You can also register a trademark with the State of Ohio without filing for a federal trademark. If you do that, you only have protection in Ohio.


Register as an Ohio DBA

Any fictitious name used in an ongoing business in Ohio must be registered with the Ohio Secretary of State. There is a filing fee.

Ohio law mandates reporting the business use of a secondary business name to the state.

Two laws are at work here, depending on whether or not that name is unique in Ohio. The law will protect that DBA name if it is unique, but it won't protect it if it is not.

  1. You can register a unique DBA name as a "trade name." A trade name comes with certain protections. You can register a DBA name that is not the same or "overly similar" to another Ohio business name. This is Form 534A and the fee is $39.
  2. You can also register a DBA as a non-unique "fictitious name." This designation does not come with any legal protections. If you try to register the name, it will be rejected unless you file a Consent to Use form from the other entity along with your Form 534A.

Each registration for an Ohio DBA name is available online. Small business owners can download the form, fill it out, and mail it.

The registration form is detail-intensive, so have your business information available before starting. Information you need to have ready:

  • The proposed business name of the DBA
  • The principal business address of the DBA
  • Names, addresses, and email addresses of individuals with interest in the business (owners)
  • Contact information of legal entities that have a stake or interest in the business
  • Purpose of the business
  • Contact information
  • Signature
  • Filing fee of $39.00

The typical turnaround is 3-7 business days. Expedited service is available for additional fees.

If mailing your registration, send it to:

Ohio Secretary of State

Business Services Division

180 Civic Center Dr.

Columbus, OH 43216

Your DBA remains valid for five years from approval. Renewals occur every five years after that. If the DBA is no longer functioning, you must file a cancellation.

After You Register: DBAs and Tax Identification

You must obtain one if the underlying company does not have a federal EIN. The underlying corporation will also need to file with the State of Ohio if it will generate sales or use taxes from the DBA. If the DBA has employees, the underlying company or individual must register with the Ohio Department of the Taxation and for unemployment insurance.

Get Help With Your Ohio DBA

An Ohio trade name lawyer can help you determine if your DBA is unique enough to be a trading name or fictitious name for Form 534A purposes.

Or you can let our trusted partner LegalZoom handle your name search, DBA application filing and publishing for $99 plus filing fees.

Disclaimer: The information presented here does not constitute legal advice or representation. It is general and educational in nature, may not reflect all recent legal developments, and may not apply to your unique facts and circumstances. Consider consulting with a qualified business attorney if you have legal questions.


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