How to Get a Trade Name in Ohio
An Ohio DBA is any name a business uses that isn’t its legal name. In Ohio, there are two different types of DBA you can register: a trade name or a fictitious name. While both allow your business to operate under an alternate name, Ohio trade names are exclusive to one business owner and must be different from any other business name in Ohio, while fictitious names don't need to be unique, and multiple businesses in the state can register the same fictitious name. Any type of business, from Ohio sole proprietors to LLCs and corporations, can use DBA to market their business or add new brands. Both trade names and fictitious names have the same form, cost $39 to register, and last for five years. Here’s what to know.
Your Ohio DBA Guide:
What is an Ohio DBA?
Businesses that want to operate under a name other than their legal business name need a DBA. Businesses often use DBAs when they want to create a brand, launch a new product line, or take their business in a new direction. DBAs are also used by franchise businesses. For example, if you own a UPS Store, the legal name of your business might be Quick Ship Ohio, Inc.,” but you’ll need to get a DBA in order to use the UPS name.
Ohio has two types of DBAs: trade names, and fictitious names. Both types of DBAs will let your business use name that isn’t its legal business names, but there are some key differences.
- Ohio trade name—must be distinct from any other business name in Ohio. It also gives you exclusive rights to use the name in Ohio.
- Ohio fictitious name—doesn’t have to be distinct from other Ohio business names, but you won’t get the exclusive rights to use the name in the state.
Both trade and fictitious names cost $39, last 5 years, and are registered by filing the same Name Registration form.
DBAs can be used to:
- Create websites and social media accounts
- Advertise on billboards, print media, t-shirts, mugs, etc….
- Open a business bank account
- Set up a point-of-sale system
- Pay vendors
Whether you’re a sole proprietor selling paint supplies on Ebay or a shareholder for a corporation with $1 million in annual revenue, all types of businesses can use DBAs. But remember, a DBA is just a name, not a business itself, which means you’ll still file taxes using your legal business name and existing EIN (or SSN for most sole proprietors).
Is registering a DBA required in Ohio?
Yes. While some states let you use a DBA without registering it, Ohio isn’t one of them. Ohio law states that a business must register its DBA with the Secretary of State if it plans to use a name that isn’t its legal business name.
Can I sign a business contract with my DBA?
Not by itself, no. A DBA is just a name and not a legal entity. You’ll need to use the legal name of your business when drawing up and signing a contract. You also want to let the other person or business know that your business has a DBA. For example, a sole proprietor using a DBA would sign a contract “Annie Smith, DBA Annie’s Big Bagels.” For formal entities like LLCs and corporations, a contract would be signed by an authorized company representative, followed by the legal name of the business, and then the DBA.
Why Get an Ohio DBA?
For starters, Ohio Rev. Code § 1329.10 dictates that any business that uses a trade name without registering that name the state will be unable take action in court until registration has been filed and approved. Here are a few reasons that business owners choose to use DBAs:
You’re an Ohio Sole Proprietor
Sole proprietors have the benefit of not having to formally register with the state. You can simply start doing business. The drawback is that with a sole proprietorship, there’s no legal distinction between you and your business, so the legal name of your business is your full name (ex: Jon Simpson). If you want to operate using a more professional or descriptive name, you’ll need to get a DBA.
You Want a Different Name for Your Business
Any type of Ohio business can use a DBA to change the publicly facing business name they use. For LLCs and corporations, a DBA can let them use a different business name without having to amend their legal business name. Amending a legal business name in Ohio costs $50 for both LLCs and corporations, whereas a DBA is only $39.
You Use Your Domain Name as Your Business Name
In most cases a business domain name is just an address for customers to find a business online. However, if you use your domain name as your public-facing business name (on branding materials, social media marketing, customer communication, etc.), you’ll need to get a DBA.
You Want to Add a New Brand
With a DBA, you can create a new brand or offer a new service without actually starting a whole new business. For example, “Parma Windows and Doors, LLC” might want to add roof repair and installation to their repertoire. By registering a DBA as “Parma Roofing and Repair,” they can keep the name and brand of their window and door business but add a roofing brand with its own name and marketing opportunities.
How to Register a DBA in Ohio
Getting a DBA (trade name) in Ohio requires you to make sure the name is available before you get to actually register your DBA. We show you how it’s done.
To start, you’ll need to do some detective work. Start with Ohio’s Business Name Search to make sure no other business has registered your preferred trade name. You’ll also need to make sure your DBA name adheres to Ohio’s naming rules as laid out in Ohio Rev. Code § 1329.02. Basically your trade name can’t:
- Include a corporate identifier (LLC, Inc., Corp., Limited, etc…) if it isn’t a registered entity.
- Be too similar to previously registered trademarks, service marks and other business names.
In order to complete Ohio’s Name Registration application, you’ll need to list the following information:
- Whether you are registering a trade name or fictitious name
- Date you first used the trade name/fictitious name or date you plan to start using it
- Trade name/fictitious name you plan to register
- Legal name of business or business owner name
- Entity number with Ohio Secretary of State (if applicable)
- Nature of your business (for example, “plumber”)
- Business address
- Mailing address (if different)
- Signature of owner or authorized representative
You can submit your Name Registration online or by mail. If you would rather file your application in person you’ll need to schedule an appointment with Ohio’s Client Service Center.
Ohio Business Filings
Standard processing by mail:
Ohio Secretary of State
P.O. Box 670
Columbus, OH 43216
Ohio Secretary of State
P.O. Box 1390
Columbus, OH 43216
22 N Fourth St
Columbus, OH 43215
Standard filing costs $39. There are expedited filing options as well. Add $100 to the filing fee and you’ll get 2-day DBA processing. Walk-in customers can pay $200 extra for 1-day processing, or $300 for 4-hour processing (if received before 1pm).
How to Renew a DBA in Ohio
Ohio DBAs need to be renewed every 5 years. To do this you’ll need to file a Renewal of Trade Name or Fictitious Name Registration and pay $25 (add $100 for 2-day expedited processing). You can file by mail, in person, or online with Ohio’s Business Filings. Walk-in customers can pay $200 extra for 1-day processing, or $300 for 4-hour processing (if received before 1pm).
Can I change my DBA name in Ohio?
Yes. To change your DBA name you’ll file a Change of Registrant Name form. You can file online with Ohio’s Business Filings, or by mail. Changing your DBA name costs $25 (add $100 for 2-day expedited filings). Walk-in customers can pay $200 extra for 1-day processing, or $300 for 4-hour processing (if received before 1pm).
How can I cancel my Ohio DBA?
No longer need or want your DBA name? Canceling it is simple. Just file Ohio’s Name Reservation/Transfer/Cancellation form by mail or go to the Ohio Business Filings page. It costs $25 to cancel a DBA (add $100 for 2-day expedited filings). Walk-in customers can pay $200 extra for 1-day processing, or $300 for 4-hour processing (if received before 1pm).
Registering a DBA vs. Starting a Business in Ohio
Registering a DBA isn’t the same thing as starting a business in Ohio. A DBA is just an alternate name for a business. It’s not a business in itself. Starting a business involves either selling a product or service or formally registering your business with the state. Here’s what that looks like:
Selling a product or service: If you work for yourself and haven’t formally organized your business as an LLC, corporation, or other entity, then you’re a sole proprietor. If you have a business partner (or multiple), you’re in a general partnership. Both are popular with business owners because there are fewer hoops to jump through compared to formal entities like LLC or corporations.
Register your business with the state: If you want to create a formal business entity like an LLC or corporation, you’ll need to file registration documents with Ohio’s Secretary of State. It costs $99 to register an LLC or corporation in Ohio.
DBA vs. LLC in Ohio
While both DBAs and LLCs are filed at the state level, LLCs are legal entities that create distinct legal separation between their owners (members) and the business. An Ohio LLC will protect assets like your personal savings, car, or home, from being seized to satisfy a lawsuit or bankruptcy. A DBA doesn’t provide any legal protection. It’s just an alternate name for your business.
If you only want a nickname for your business, or a name for your new product line, then a DBA makes sense. However, if you’re a sole proprietor and want to protect your personal assets, you need to form a separate business entity with liability protection, like an LLC. Northwest can help you get one.
Note: Registering an Ohio trade name doesn’t prevent another business from using it in another state. You can apply to trademark your DBA at the federal level for stronger legal rights to your name.
Protect Your Assets with an Ohio LLCGet Started Today
Ohio DBA FAQs
Will a DBA keep my personal information off the public record?
No. Ohio’s Name Registration application asks for the name and address of at least one of the business partners. This information will be public record. If you operate your business from home, that could mean listing your home address in a public database.
If you really want to keep your information off public record, you’ll want to hire an Ohio registered agent and form an Ohio LLC. If you hire Northwest, we’ll list our name and address (instead of yours) on all state documents allowable. We do this to keep your private information out of the public eye and help you live privately as a business owner.
How much does it cost to get a DBA in Ohio?
How long does it take to get an Ohio DBA?
It takes about 3-7 business days to process a DBA registration. Online and in person filings take about 3-7 business days to be processed. Mailed filings will take longer due to postal times. Ohio also offers expedited processing of 2 business days for an extra $100 ($139 total).
How long does a DBA name last in Ohio?
Ohio DBAs last for 5 years.
Do I need a separate bank account for my DBA?
Nope. Getting a DBA doesn’t create a new business, so you’re not required to open a separate bank account for your DBA. However, a DBA can be used to open up a bank account. That way, you can make and receive payments under your DBA.
Do I need a separate EIN for my DBA?
No. A DBA is just a name for doing business, not a taxable entity. Multi-member LLCs, corporations, and all businesses with employees need an EIN, but you don’t need a separate one for your DBA.
How many DBAs can I have in Ohio?
Ohio allows businesses to have as many DBAs they need. There is no bulk deal on DBA names, so you’ll still pay $39 for each one you register.
What is the legal name of my business?
Legal business names are what you list on federal and state documents, like tax filings.
For a sole proprietor, the legal name of the business is your full legal name (ex: Sally Smith).
A general partnership’s legal name is the last names of the partners (ex: Smith, Jones, and Johnson).
The legal business name of a formal entity like an LLC or corporation is the name listed on the formation documents that were filed with the Ohio Secretary of State (ex: Northwest Registered Agent, LLC or AT&T, Inc.).