One of the most important parts of any business is its name. Your limited liability company’s name is your first impression with prospective clients, whether they hear about your business by word of mouth, drive past a billboard advertising your business on the freeway, or if they stumble upon your business as a result of a Google search.
One way to change your business name — or to add an additional name that your LLC can use interchangeably — is by filing a “doing business as” name application, commonly known as a DBA. There are many reasons to get a DBA — from marketing a new product line to granting a sole proprietorship the ability to use an assumed name — so this article will walk you through the process of registering a DBA for your Delaware LLC.
What Is a DBA?
To begin, let’s quickly run down what exactly a DBA is. One point of confusion we often hear about is that a DBA is not a business entity, like an LLC, corporation, sole proprietorship, general partnership, etc. Instead, you can think of a DBA as an add-on feature of sorts.
The DBA allows you to create alternate business names for your entity, which you can then use interchangeably with your LLC’s official business name. In addition, for informal business entities that don’t have exclusive business names (like sole proprietorships and general partnerships), a DBA can be a great way to inject some additional professionalism into a business venture.
But let’s talk strictly about LLCs, shall we? Why would an LLC want an additional business name? There are several potential reasons, although they obviously vary considerably depending on what your business does. One popular reason is to differentiate a new product line from a company’s existing offerings.
Let’s say that you own a business called “Fine Footwear, LLC” that produces high-end shoes. If you decide to also start a new product line that sells inexpensive flip-flop sandals, you might want a way to differentiate this brand from your core business. In this circumstance, you could register a DBA for “Flip-Flops by Fine Footwear,” and you can use this name to market your new products, while your original product line remains unaffected if your sandal side business fails.
It could also be helpful if you decide to expand your local business into a new market. For instance, if you own a Delaware-based plumbing business called “Wilmington Plumbing,” and you want to expand beyond Wilmington, you can register a DBA for “Dover Plumbing” and use that name in the Dover market.
The state of Delaware is somewhat vague regarding the exclusivity of DBA names. While we did find plenty of language saying that the DBA name you register should be “unique,” we didn’t find any sort of enforcement mechanism for that guideline. Therefore, exclusive rights seem to be more of a suggestion than a rule of law in this state.
With this in mind, we’re not big fans of filing DBAs in Delaware. If you want to prevent other businesses from using your trade name, it’s usually a better idea to register an additional LLC instead of registering a DBA. However, if you still want to register a DBA in this state, we’ll outline the process in the next section.
How to Get a DBA for a Delaware LLC
First off, we’ll note that Delaware often refers to DBAs as “trade names,” so for the purposes of this article, we’ll continue to use both terms interchangeably.
The process for obtaining a DBA in Delaware takes place on the county level, rather than with the state itself. Of course, Delaware only has three counties, so the process doesn’t have that much variance throughout the state. All three counties use the same form to register a DBA, which is called the Registration of Trade, Business, and Fictitious Name Certificate.
Regardless of which county you’re registering in, the first step should be to search the Delaware Division of Corporations website to make sure no LLCs or corporations have already registered the name you want. Once you’ve verified your name’s availability, you’ll need the following information to fill out the certificate: your LLC’s new trade name, your business address and phone number, the official business name of your LLC, the date you originally registered your LLC, the nature of your LLC’s business, and the date.
Before you submit this form to the county, you will need to get it notarized. When you’re ready to file your certificate, you will submit it to the Office of the Prothonotary in your county. There is a $25 fee associated with this filing, no matter which county you file it in.
Should You Hire a DBA Service?
Would you rather pay a reasonable fee to a business services company and have them register your DBA on your behalf? While you can certainly save some money by doing it yourself, it’s nice to have the peace of mind that your new trade name was registered by a professional who really knows what they’re doing.
Here are a few of our favorite services for DBA registrations, all offering the same low price point of $99:
- IncFile: IncFile is one of the best business service providers available, and their DBA service is top-notch. IncFile receives tremendous customer feedback, with thousands of positive reviews all over the web. They also have plenty of experience, as they’ve been around since 2004 and they’ve formed more than 250,000 businesses.
- LegalZoom: LegalZoom actually has two different packages for DBA services, as their $119 Premium package includes a trial of their Business Advisory Plan. LegalZoom is one of the biggest names in the industry, and they’ve served millions of customers. It’s hard to argue with a track record like that!
- Swyft Filings: Swyft Filings really lives up to their name, as they’re one of the fastest business services companies you’ll ever find. Not only do they have some of the industry’s quickest turnaround times, but they also say that you can fill out their entire DBA application in “as little as 10 minutes.”
The doing business as (DBA) name varies more from state to state than most other business filings. In some states, a DBA grants you exclusive rights to your new trade name, but in states like Delaware, that simply isn’t the case. Due to this lack of exclusivity, we’re not fans of registering DBAs in this state.
Instead, it’s probably a better option to form an additional LLC if you want to be able to use multiple names for your business. This is certainly more of a hassle that registering a DBA, but at least you’ll have exclusive rights to your name.
If you’re looking for a new way to market your LLC in Delaware, a DBA might not be the best idea.