How to Register an Ohio DBA

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In Ohio, a business operating under a fictitious name will need to register a DBA.  Learn more about what a DBA is, who needs one, and how to register.

Related: How to start a business in Ohio

What is the difference between a Trade Name and a Fictitious Name?

A DBA, also known as “Doing Business As,” also commonly refers to a Trade Name and Fictitious Name in Ohio.  What is somewhat confusing in Ohio is that a business can register either a Trade Name or Fictitious Name.

A Trade Name is a name that must be distinguishable from the other names that are registered with the Secretary of State.  If the name you want is available, this name can be registered, and no other business can register it.

Before a Trade Name can be registered, it will have to be used prior to the date of filing.  Ways to use the name include opening a bank account with the trade name, using the trade name on products, any advertisements using the Trade Name, or using the name on business cards or letterhead.

A Fictitious Name is a name registered with the Secretary of State but does not have to be unique. A Fictitious Name provides much less protection because other registered names are not required to be distinguishable.  For example, if “Bob’s Landscaping” is registered as a Fictitious Name, an LLC would be able to register “Bob’s Landscaping, LLC” because the names are not required to be distinguishable.

What is a DBA good for?

A DBA is required for many businesses in order to legally operate and provides information on the people operating a business.  In addition to the legal requirement, a DBA offers other benefits such as proving the existence of a business, opening a bank account under a business name, registering a merchant account to accept credit cards, and others.

Who needs to register for an Ohio DBA?

The requirements and need to register vary, depending on the type of 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 but doesn’t use a business name, he doesn’t have to register.  If John decides to name his business John’s Computer Repair, he will need to register.

Corporations and Limited Liability Companies won’t typically register a Trade or 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 forming another entity.

Related: Difference between a sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Ohio DBA Registration Form

Form 534A: Name Registration

How much does a DBA cost in Ohio?

The cost to register the Trade Name or Fictitious Name in Ohio is $39.  Normal filing typically takes 3-7 days.  If a faster turnaround is needed, expedited service is available.

2-day service is an additional $100
1-day service is an additional $200
4-hour service is an additional $300

This registration is renewable every five years.

What are the steps to file a DBA in Ohio?

Step 1 – Verify Name Availability
Since the cost is the same to register the Trade and Fictitious Name, if the name you want to use is available, register the Trade Name for the most protection.

Learn how to search available business names in Ohio.

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

      • Name of the individual or business (if registered as a corporation or LLC)
      • Business address
      • Phone number
      • Email address
      • Type of registration
      • Name being registered
      • Registrant’s Entity Number (number provided the Secretary of State to corporations and LLCs)
      • What the business does

Step 3 – Submit the Form
File the form along with payment to the Secretary of State.  If mailing the form, send it to:

Secretary of State
P.O. Box 670
Columbus, OH 43216

Are there any words you can’t use in a DBA?

DBAs can’t be registered using words that are related to banks, trusts, insurance agencies, cooperatives, or legal professional associations unless the business is licensed to operate as such.

Can someone steal my business name?

While registering your Trade Name will keep someone else from registering the exact same name in Ohio, it does very little from someone else operating a business under that name in other states. If stopping others from using your business name is important, you can protect it through a trademark.

Learn more about trademarking a business name.

Related: What is the difference between a trademark, copyright, and patent?

Does a DBA need an EIN?

An EIN or Employer Identification Number is a unique nine-digit number that some businesses will register for through the Internal Revenue Department (IRS). An EIN is required for partnerships, corporations, multi-member LLCs, or any business that has employees.

Sole proprietorships and single-member LLCs without employees can use the owner’s social security number to identify the business.

There is no cost to get an EIN when registering directly from the IRS.

Related: How to register for an EIN in Ohio

Questions?

If you have questions about the process, you can contact the Ohio Secretary of State at 877-767-3453 or  busserv@OhioSecretaryofstate.gov.