A trade name, trading name, or business name, is a pseudonym used by companies that do not operate under their registered company name. The term for this type of alternative name is a "fictitious" business name. Registering the fictitious name with a relevant government body is often required. In a number of countries, the phrase "trading as" (abbreviated to t/a) is used to designate a trade name. In the United States, the phrase "doing business as" (abbreviated to DBA, dba, d.b.a., or d/b/a) is used, among others, such as assumed business name or fictitious business name. In Canada, "operating as" (abbreviated to o/a) and "trading as" are used, although "doing business as" is also sometimes used. A company typically uses a trade name to conduct business using a simpler name rather than using their formal and often lengthier name. Trade names are also used when a preferred name cannot be registered, often because it may already be registered or is too similar to a name that is already registered.

Legal aspects

Using one (or more) fictitious business name(s) does not create one (or more) separate legal entities.
Pinkerton's, Inc. v. Superior Court
'', 49 Cal. App. 4th 1342, 1348-49, 57 Cal. Rptr. 2d 356, 360 (1996) (collecting cases and explaining term of art "doing business as" (DBA)).
The distinction between a registered legal name and a fictitious business name, or trade name, is important because fictitious business names do not always identify the entity that is legally responsible. Legal agreements (such as contracts) are normally made using the registered legal name of the business. If a corporation fails to consistently adhere to such important legal formalities like using its registered legal name in contracts, it may be subject to piercing of the corporate veil. In English, trade names are generally treated as proper nouns.

By country


Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es, link=no, República Argentina), is a country in the southern half of South America. Argentina covers an area of , making it the second-largest country in South America after Brazil, t ...
, a trade name is known as a ''nombre de fantasía'' ('fantasy' or 'fiction' name), and the legal name of business is called a ''razón social'' (social name).


In Brazil, a trade name is known as a ''nome fantasia'' ('fantasy' or 'fiction' name), and the legal name of business is called ''razão social'' (social name).


In some Canadian jurisdictions, such as Ontario, when a businessperson writes a trade name on a contract, invoice, or cheque, he or she must also add the legal name of the business. Numbered companies will very often operate as something other than their legal name, which is unrecognizable to the public.


In Chile, a trade name is known as a ''nombre de fantasía'' ('fantasy' or 'fiction' name), and the legal name of business is called a ''razón social'' (social name).


In Ireland businesses are legally required to register business names where these differ from the surname(s) of the sole trader or partners, or the legal name of a company. The Companies Registration Office publishes a searchable register of such business names.


In Japan, the word is used.


Colonial Nigeria Colonial Nigeria was ruled by the British Empire from the mid-nineteenth century until 1960 when Nigeria achieved independence. British influence in the region began with the prohibition of slave trade to British subjects in 1807. Britain a ...
, certain tribes had members that used a variety of trading names to conduct business with the Europeans. Two famous examples were King Perekule VII of Bonny, who was known as ''Captain Pepple'' in trade matters, and King
Jubo Jubogha King Jaja of Opobo (full name: Jubo Jubogha; 1821–1891) was the first king (amanyanabo) of Opobo. He was also the founder of Opobo city-state in present day Rivers State of Nigeria. Born in Umuduruoha Amaigbo in present-day Imo State, his actu ...
Opobo Opobo is a community in Rivers State, in the South South region of Nigeria. The kingdom was founded in 1870 by Jubo Jubogha, popularly known as JaJa, an Igbo man who owned slaves. The native language of Opobo is the Ibani language that is spoken ...
, who bore the pseudonym ''Captain Jaja''. Both Pepple and Jaja would bequeath their trade names to their royal descendants as official surnames upon their deaths.


In Singapore, there is no filing requirement for a "trading as" name, but there are requirements for disclosure of the underlying business or company's registered name and unique entity number.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, there is no filing requirement for a "trading as" name, but there are requirements for disclosure of the owner's true name and some restrictions on the use of certain names.

United States

A minority of U.S. states, including Washington, still use the term trade name to refer to "doing business as" (DBA) names; In most U.S. states now, DBAs are officially referred to using other terms; almost half of states, like New York and Oregon, use the term ''Assumed Business Name or Assumed Name;'' nearly as many, like Pennsylvania, use the term ''Fictitious Name.'' For
consumer protection Consumer protection is the practice of safeguarding buyers of goods and services, and the public, against unfair practices in the marketplace. Consumer protection measures are often established by law. Such laws are intended to prevent busines ...
purposes, many U.S. jurisdictions require businesses operating with fictitious names to file a DBA statement, though names including the first and last name of the owner may be accepted. This also reduces the possibility of two local businesses operating under the same name, although some jurisdictions do not provide exclusivity for a name, or may allow more than one party to register 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. Sole proprietors are the most common users of DBAs. Sole proprietors are individual business owners who run their businesses themselves. Since most people in these circumstances use a business name other than their own name, it is often necessary for them to get DBAs. Generally, a DBA must be registered with a local or state government, or both, depending on the jurisdiction. For example, California, Texas and Virginia require a DBA to be registered with each county (or independent city in the case of Virginia) where the owner does business. Maryland and Colorado have DBAs registered with a state agency. Virginia also requires corporations and LLCs to file a copy of their registration with the county or city to be registered with the State Corporation Commission. 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 is the luxury vehicle division of the Japanese automaker Toyota. The Lexus brand is marketed in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide and is Japan's largest-selling make of premium cars. It has ranked among the 10 largest Japanese ...
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. In California, 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 A pseudonym (; ) or alias () is a fictitious name that a person or group assumes for a particular purpose, which differs from their original or true name ( orthonym). This also differs from a new name that entirely or legally replaces an individu ...
. 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. Several other states, such as Illinois, require print notices as well.


In Uruguay, a trade name is known as a ''nombre fantasía'', and the legal name of business is called a ''razón social''.

See also

Pen name A pen name, also called a ''nom de plume'' or a literary double, is a pseudonym (or, in some cases, a variant form of a real name) adopted by an author and printed on the title page or by-line of their works in place of their real name. A pen n ...
Rebranding Rebranding is a marketing strategy in which a new name, term, symbol, design, concept or combination thereof is created for an established brand with the intention of developing a new, differentiated identity in the minds of consumers, investor ...
Service mark A service mark or servicemark is a trademark used in the United States and several other countries to identify a service rather than a product. When a service mark is federally registered, the standard registration symbol ® or "Reg U. ...
Trade dress Trade dress is the characteristics of the visual appearance of a product or its packaging (or even the design of a building) that signify the source of the product to consumers. Trade dress is an aspect of trademark law, which is a form of intelle ...


{{reflist Brand management Business law Product management Names Intangible assets