West Virginia DBAOne 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 West Virginia 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 West Virginia-based plumbing business called “Charleston Plumbing,” and you want to expand beyond Charleston, you can register a DBA for “Morgantown Plumbing” and use that name in the Morgantown market.

The state of West Virginia provides no exclusivity for DBA names. In fact, the state specifically says that “trade names are not protected from use by other companies through trade name registration. To protect a trade name that is in actual use, consider filing an application for a trademark or service mark.” For this reason, we aren’t fans of registering DBAs in West Virginia.

If you want the exclusive rights to an additional business name in this state, you can either file a trademark as the state suggests or form another LLC. That said, if you still want to register a DBA for a West Virginia LLC, we’ll discuss the process in the next section.

How to Get a DBA for a West Virginia LLC

First off, we’ll note that West Virginia often refers to DBAs as “trade names,” so 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 West Virginia begins with a business entity search to make sure that no formal business entities have already registered your desired trade name. Once you’ve determined the name’s eligibility, you can move on to fill out the Application for Trade Name (DBA) form.

This form requires the following information: the official business name of your LLC, the trade name you’re registering, your LLC’s business address, your name, your personal address, your title, your signature, an indication that your business is or is not part of a franchise, your phone number, and the date.

When you’re ready to file the form, you can submit it online, by mail, by hand, by fax, or by email to the Secretary of State. Regardless of how you choose to file it, this document has a $25 filing fee. Standard processing takes roughly 5-10 business days, but there are expedited options available: 24-hour processing for an additional $25, two-hour processing for an additional $250, or one-hour processing for $500. Expedited processing is only available for orders placed via email, fax, or in person.

In Conclusion

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. However, West Virginia specifically says that registering a trade name in this state grants you no exclusive right to use that name. 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 than 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 West Virginia, a DBA might not be the best idea.

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