In Wisconsin, a business operating under a fictitious name may want to register a DBA.  Learn more about what a DBA is, who needs one and how to register.

What is a DBA?

A DBA, also known as “Doing Business As”, Trade Name, Assumed Name or Fictitious Name is a name used by a business, that is different from the legal name of the business.   

Who needs to register?

It is optional to register a Trade Name in Wisconsin.  Wisconsin state Statute 132.01 provides more information.  The need to register varies by business entity.   

Sole proprietorships and general partnerships are the most common entities to register for a DBA. 

The legal name of a sole proprietor or partnership can be the owner’s full first and last name, which can be used without registering.  For example, if John Smith starts a business repairing computers operating under John Smith he doesn’t need to register.  If John decides to name his business John’s Computer Repair or even John Smith’s Computer Repair then he may want to register.  Reasons for registering are typically because the bank, a vendor or supplier requires one before doing business with them

Corporations and Limited Liability Companies won’t typically register a fictitious name since a unique entity name is created during the formation process.  Some will file for a DBA if they have another business they want to operate under their corporate/LLC umbrella to keep the liability protection without having to form another entity.

Wisconsin DBA Registration Form

Trade Name Registration Form

DBA Registration Fees

The filing fee to register a Trade Name in Wisconsin is $15.  Registration is good for 10 years and is renewable.

Steps to file a DBA in Wisconsin?

Step 1 – Verify Name Availability
A business may not register a name that is the same or similar to another business in Wisconsin.

Names can be searched on the Secretary of State’s website.  Learn how to do a business name search in Wisconsin.  

Step 2 – Fill out the Form
Information requested on the form includes:

  • Legal name of the business
  • Physical office address
  • Mailing address
  • Name being registered
  • What the business does
  • Contact information of the applicant

Step 3 – Notarize the Form
Before signing the form, be sure to have a notary to witness the signing of the documents. 

Step 4 – Submit the Form
Submit the filing fee and form to:

Trademark Section
Department of Financial Institutions
PO Box 7847
Madison, WI 53707-7847

Name Restrictions

DBAs can’t be registered using words that are related to banks or insurance unless the business is licensed to provide those services.  

Protecting your Business Name

Registering your Trade Name will not stop anyone from registering the exact same name in Wisconsin.  If stopping others from using your business name is important, you can protect it through a trademark.

Learn more about trademarking a business name.

Questions?

If you have questions about the process, you can the Department of Financial Institutions at 608-266-8915 or DFI-Trademark@wisconsin.gov.

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