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The phrase "doing business as" (abbreviated DBA, dba, d.b.a. or d/b/a) is a legal term used in the United States and Canada, meaning that the trade name, or fictitious business name, under which the business or operation is conducted and presented to the world is not the legal name of the legal person(s) who actually owns the business and is responsible for it. In other countries the expressions operating as (abbreviated o/a) or trading as (abbreviated T/A) are used for a similar purpose. The desired name might not have been able to be registered, or the business might be owned by another company, franchisee, or a sole proprietorship, resulting in all legally binding transactions taking place on behalf of the trading as name.
The distinction between an actual and a "fictitious" name is important because businesses with "fictitious" names give no obvious indication of the entity that is legally responsible for their operation.
Fictitious names do not create legal entities in and of themselves; they are merely names assumed by existing persons or entities.
In some jurisdictions, when a businessperson writes a trade name on a contract, invoice, or check, he or she must also add the legal name of the business. An example of a jurisdiction that mandates this is Ontario, Canada.
In Canada, the term operating as (abbreviated to o/a) is used.
In the United Kingdom there is no filing requirement for a "trading as" name, but there are requirements for disclosure of the true owner's name, and some restrictions on the use of certain names.
In several U.S. states, DBAs are officially referred to using another term. Oregon uses Assumed Business Names; Washington calls DBAs trade names; other states refer to trade styles or fictitious business names.
For consumer protection purposes, many U.S. jurisdictions require businesses operating with fictitious names to file a DBA statement. This also reduces the possibility of two local businesses operating under the same name. Note, though, that this is not a substitute for filing a trademark application. A DBA filing carries no legal weight in establishing trademark rights. In the U.S., trademark rights are acquired by use in commerce, but there can be substantial benefits to filing a trademark application.
DBA statements are often used in conjunction with a franchise. The franchisee will have a legal name under which it may sue and be sued, but will conduct business under the franchiser's brand name (which the public would recognize). A typical real-world example can be found in a well-known pricing mistake case, Donovan v. RRL Corp., 26 Cal. 4th 261 (2001), where the named defendant, RRL Corporation, was a Lexus car dealership doing business as "Lexus of Westminster", but remaining a separate legal entity from Lexus, a Division of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.; another good example is Left Behind Games, which has retained its original corporate name but is doing business under the moniker of "Inspired Media Entertainment" upon branching out from the Left Behind franchise.
Notably in California and also in other areas, filing a DBA statement also requires that a notice of the fictitious name be published in local newspapers for some set period of time to inform the public of the owner's intent to operate under an assumed name. The intention of the law is to protect the public from fraud, by compelling the business owner to first file or register his fictitious business name with the county clerk, and then making a further public record of it by publishing it in a newspaper.