Trademark vs. DBA — Can You Have One Without the Other?

Trademark vs. DBA — Can You Have One Without the Other?

You have a lot to consider when putting together your limited liability company. From assembling your team to establishing your mission, there’s a lot to be done before you finally reach launch day.

However, even in that flurry of activity, it’s vital to not overlook the importance of protecting your company’s assets. To that end, your company’s name is among the most integral elements in your long-term success. As the starting point of your brand, you’ll have to decide if you need to trademark your company name or if a simple DBA — “doing business as” or fictitious name — is enough.

Let’s explore the differences between the two and how they might work together.

Defining Your Options

Until you begin assembling your own company, you probably never considered the nuances between a trademark name and a DBA name. But rest assured, we’ll get you up to speed. After all, you can’t hope to make smart decisions regarding your company without a crash course in what your options are.

Trademark

Imagine going through all the trouble of devising the perfect name for your business. You’re excited and ready to make a difference. Then you realize that another company either already has the same name or has sprung up to capitalize on your business’s success. Without a trademark for your business name, you have little to no defense against any emerging claims.

A trademark ensures that you have legal ownership over elements integral to your company, such as its name or logo. Filing for trademark rights isn’t overly complicated, although the process of finding a name that a) suits your business and b) isn’t already claimed can take a while. Once you file a trademark, it is infinitely renewable and recognized worldwide as long as you’re updated.

DBA

Meanwhile, a DBA name has less to do with legal protection than trademarks and should not be confused with the legal business entity of your company. In some cases, a sole proprietor will use a DBA to separate their business from their individual name, or a corporation may opt to conduct business with a DBA name rather than using their corporation’s legal registered name.

This distinction between your own or your organization’s legal name is truly the only major benefit of a DBA name over other options. While a DBA name certainly has its place (and may very well be ideal for your company), its usefulness as a marketing and brand development tool doesn’t include any larger legal protections for your company or its meticulously selected name.

Differences Between a Trademark and DBA

So, we’ve laid out a basic description for both trademark name and DBA name. Now, let’s take a look at some key ways in which these two types of names compare.

  1. Trademark and DBA names are designed for very different functions. As described briefly above, a DBA creates a buffer between a legal entity as the name you use to market and promote your company, whereas a trademark name is inextricably concerned with the distinction between your company and others with names or even missions like it. If you have both of these needs, then you can easily file both a DBA and a trademark name, as this is a common practice among businesses.
  2. If you really want to secure exclusive rights to your company’s name — perhaps you’re thinking long-term branding and expansion, which is never a bad idea — then you certainly will want to trademark. DBA names don’t give you the right to claim anything about your business’s name, at least not across the board. In many cases, businesses in an area can “claim” duplicate DBA names. Trademarks, however, are all about ownership of your name and the elements therein.
  3. Aside from how you use your business name and your interest in having exclusive rights, you’ll also need to fully understand the legal protections or lack thereof involved with each. Yes, we’ve covered this a bit earlier, but as the primary difference between trademark and DBA names, it bears repeating. DBAs offer virtually no legal rights. You have the right to use a name for your company, not to defend it against competition. Trademarks and DBAs can work together to provide the best of both worlds though.
  4. One key reason why you should decide whether you want to secure a trademark and/or a DBA name for your business is the cost involved. While trademark names can run into hundreds of dollars, a DBA name bears an incredibly affordable price, sometimes as low as $50. That depends on the level of trademark (state vs. federal, the latter of which costs significantly more) you’re seeking, and that’s not even considering the potential need for legal assistance. Just something to consider as you debate your options.

Getting Trademark or DBA Help with Incfile

With a better understanding of how a trademark and a DBA function within your business, you can make wiser decisions relating to your company’s future. We also understand how overwhelming it can be to build a new company from the ground up. That’s why we make it our business to give you the best possible launchpad for your latest venture.

At Incfile, we give small business owners like you the tools to maximize your impact on the market. Our Trademark and DBA Filing services can take care of all the details for you, allowing you to focus on growing your business.

Robert Yaniz Jr.

Robert Yaniz Jr.

Robert Yaniz Jr. has been a professional writer since 2004, including print and online publications. Much of his experience centers on the business world, including work for a major regional business newspaper and a global law firm.
Robert Yaniz Jr.

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