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 Oregon 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 an Oregon-based plumbing business called “Portland Plumbing,” and you want to expand beyond Portland, you can register a DBA for “Corvallis Plumbing” and use that name in the Corvallis market.
The state of Oregon has confusing laws regarding DBA names. At first glance, it seems that the state provides exclusivity for DBA names — the state specifies that all DBA names must be “distinguishable” from all others on record. However, it doesn’t take long to figure out how toothless this regulation is (it’s actually more of a suggestion than a regulation).
Oregon notes that changing even one letter of a business name is enough to make it “exclusive” in the state’s eyes. Furthermore, DBA names are handled on the county level, meaning that each county has its own database of registered names, and searching the state’s database might not include those county databases.
The biggest issue of all is the fact that the state includes this foreboding sentence: “Registering your name does not give you the right to use it.” The state goes on to explain how they might allow you to register a business called “Starbucks Coffee” but the actual Starbucks could step in with legal action. Therefore, it’s pretty easy to see how registering a DBA in Oregon doesn’t really provide you any exclusivity, despite what the state says on the surface.
With this in mind, we’re not fans of registering DBAs in this state. If you want the exclusive rights to a unique additional business name in Oregon, you can simply form an additional LLC. This is certainly more work (and costs more money) than a DBA, but the exclusivity is worth it, in our opinion.
That said, if you still want to get a DBA for your Oregon LLC, we’ll outline the process in the following section.
How to Get a DBA for an Oregon LLC
First off, we’ll note that Oregon typically refers to DBAs as “assumed 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 Oregon starts with a search of the state’s business database to make sure an LLC or corporation hasn’t already registered the name you want. However, keep in mind that this will not inform you whether or not your desired name has already been registered as an assumed name in one of Oregon’s 36 counties.
Once you’ve determined that your desired assumed name hasn’t been registered by a formal business entity, you can fill out the Assumed Business Name – New Registration form. This document requires the following information: your LLC’s Oregon business registry number, the assumed business name you’re registering, a description of your business, the name and address of your authorized representative, your LLC’s principal business address, the names and addresses of your LLC members, the counties within Oregon where your business operates, your name, your signature, and your phone number.
When you’re ready to file the form, you can submit it to the Secretary of State online, by mail, or by hand. Regardless of your filing method, this document costs $50 to file. You can check the state’s turnaround times by visiting this page and taking a look at the “Filing Waiting Times” box on the right-hand side. While the exact processing speeds may vary, at the time of this writing, the state was taking around five hours to process online filings, while mailed filings had a two business day turnaround.
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 assumed name. However, even though Oregon says you need to register a unique DBA name, it’s more of a suggestion than an actual regulation. 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 Oregon, a DBA might not be the best idea.