DBA for Maryland LLCOne 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 Maryland LLC.

Keep in Mind: A DBA does not provide you with asset protection. However an LLC does and allows you to operate under the business name of your choice as long as it is not already claimed. Plus, it is fairly straightforward to file through an LLC formation service (like ZenBusiness) or on your own.
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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 Maryland-based plumbing business called “Baltimore Plumbing,” and you want to expand beyond Baltimore, you can register a DBA for “Annapolis Plumbing” and use that name in the Annapolis market.

The state of Maryland includes more protections for DBA names than most states do because, in most states, there is no exclusivity for a DBA. If another business decides that they want to use your DBA as their own name, many states allow them to do just that. However, this state provides more legal protection than most. In fact, Maryland will protect your trade name for five years once you register it.

How to Get a DBA for a Maryland LLC

First off, we’ll note that Maryland typically refers to DBAs as “trade names,” but for the purposes of this article, we’ll continue to use both terms interchangeably because most states use the term “DBA.”

The process for obtaining a DBA in Maryland starts with a business name search to determine whether the name you want to register is available or if it is already in use. Once you’ve determined the name’s eligibility, you can move on to fill out the state’s Trade Name Application.

This form requires the trade name you’re registering, the street address where your LLC is located, your LLC’s official business name, your mailing address, a brief description of your business, and the signature(s) of your LLC’s owner(s).

When you’re done filling out the form, you can submit it online, by mail, or by hand to the Secretary of State. No matter how you choose to file it, this form has a $25 filing fee. The typical processing speed is 7-10 business days, although if you submit your document in person and pay an extra $50 fee, they will process your filing as you wait.

In Conclusion

To be honest, we often say that entrepreneurs shouldn’t bother with DBAs because they don’t provide any exclusivity for your business name. However, Maryland actually does a solid job in this regard compared to most states.

Maryland’s pledge to provide name exclusivity for any trade name registered here makes the DBA an interesting proposition in this state, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this option to any of our readers.

If you’re looking for a new way to market your LLC in Maryland, a DBA isn’t a bad idea.

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