Image Courtesy: Deborah_SweeneyThis guest blog is by Deborah Sweeney, the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.

Differences between DBA Names and TrademarksOne of the best and worst parts about being an entrepreneur is that there are so many choices to make. You have to choose which sort of entity to file as, a location for your business, whether you want a Doing Business As (DBA) name or a trademark, the list goes on! While it’s great to have so many choices available, making a decision can be tough (especially when two things, like filing for a DBA name and trademark, are so seemingly similar from the outside).

Protecting the name of your business is important—it saves the reputation and brand you’ve worked so hard to create for your business. There are two ways to go about protecting your name: filing for a DBA name, and filing for a trademark. Though similar, there are some major differences between the two. Here are nine differences between DBA names and trademarks:

1. Registering a DBA is simpler than registering a trademark

Getting a DBA is as simple as performing a name search, filling out a form, and paying a fee. That’s it! Some areas may require you to publish that you’ll be doing business under a certain name in a local paper, but that’s not in every state. Getting a DBA is pretty straightforward for the most part, whereas the trademark application process is more extensive and can take more than six months to process.

2. A DBA is cheaper than a trademark

In addition to the ease, DBAs are also cheaper than trademarks. Though prices vary by location, DBAs are less costly than trademarks because they ultimately offer less protection in terms of location and all that is protected.

3. DBAs only protect on a state level

Since everything is done at the state level for a DBA; that’s as high as the protection goes. Most states have laws forbidding businesses from registering names that are too similar to another DBA name. However, if a business has the same name as you in the next state over, there’s nothing you can do.

4. A trademark offers more protection than a DBA

Where a DBA only reaches to the state level, a trademark is considered purely yours to use on a national level. However, another trademark can use the same words as yours as long as the font and color are different, or a different image is used.

5. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) watches out for foul play

Although the actual words of two trademarks can be the same, the USPTO looks out for any deceiving similarities. One mark cannot tarnish another or cause any confusion.

6. A trademark is your legal property

By registering your trademark, you have exclusive rights to use it. No one else can infringe upon that right. When you register a trademark, it becomes your business’s property and your business’s property alone.

7. Trademarks go beyond just a name

Whereas a DBA only covers the use of a name, a trademark can be registered for different parts of your company’s branding. Logos, designs, phrases, and symbols can all be registered and protected.

8. Trademarks have inherent value

Think about a well-built car. Just as a car, it has value. Though, put a BMW mark on the vehicle, and the car automatically has more value.

9. Both DBAs and trademarks keep other businesses from using your business name

The important thing to remember is, in broad terms, they both do the same job. It’s the amount of protection, what exactly is being protected, and the process that differs.


Filing for a DBA or trademark is one of the best things you can do for your brand. Though their purposes are the same (to protect your business’s name) the differences between the two are crucial in picking the kind of protection you want. Once you realize the exact differences between DBAs and trademarks, you will be able to make an educated decision on which sort of protection best suits your business. There is no right answer for everyone, but there is a right answer for your business.

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