While most states require you use the complete legal name of your business when conducting official business, including a designation of your business’ entity type, such as Inc., Ltd., P.C., LLC, NFP, and the like, the full legal name is often cumbersome and less attractive in the marketplace. As a result, most states allow your business to establish a business alias, also known as (“a/k/a”), or a doing business as (“d/b/a”) name. For example, Apple is a d/b/a for Apple, Inc. and Walmart for Wal-Mart, Inc.

To obtain a d/b/a you must register it with the Secretary of State, pay a small annual fee, and file the d/b/a certificate with the recorder of deeds in the county of your principal place of business. You can also adopt a d/b/a by applying for and receiving a trademark or tradename from the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The required filings are to prevent confusion with other authorized names and to provide “record notice” of your business’ legal name. Once your d/b/a is approved and recorded you can conduct business under that name as though it was your business’ legal name. That is how Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company became “3M”.

Even though a fully approved d/b/a allows you to conduct business using that name without the entity status designation, in order to maintain the limited liability protection your corporate or company entity provides we recommend that “official” business documents like contracts, purchase orders, tax filings, websites, and government submissions still identify the full authorized business name somewhere on the document. If an agent of the business is signing the document for your business, he or she should still identify their capacity (officer, director, manager, or member) below their signature for their protection and to preserve the entity protection.

Should you have any questions about obtaining or using a “doing business as” name for your business, please contact us.

This Brief is designed to provide our friends and clients with information regarding the various subject matters covered, it is not designed to take place of legal, accounting, or other professional advice.  If expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. This memorandum may constitute advertising under the rules regulating Illinois attorneys.