I have operated a sole proprietorship for 4 years, and just completed a corporate formation. I am a bit confused about the need for DBAs for the corporation. It was clear to me when operating as a sole proprietor that it was needed, but now as a corporation I'm less sure of the reasoning and would like to understand if it is a legal requirement, or for the purpose of protecting the names. I am also confused about jurisdiction. We operate various websites, utilizing a variety of domain names, some of which are specifically targeting people in specific cities. Each website will now show the copyright as belonging to the corporation, as well as list the corporate name in the terms and conditions, and contact info, etc. Payments will be received by the corp, bank accounts and tax returns are filed by the corp. So my question is this: is it necessary to file DBAS for the various domain names? And if so, what are the reasons for doing so (legal requirement or extra protection of the name)? And if so, should we file the DBAS for the domain names associated with other cities (the city name is contained within the domain name and it targets customers in that city) in that city or in the city where we are operating from (Los Angeles)? For example, XXXXChicago.com, and the name XXXX Chicago is used without the .com, so would we DBA both of these variations and if so where? Thank you.
2 Answers from Attorneys
It's really quite simple. A corporation's name, as set forth in the Secretary of State's records, is NOT fictitious and does not have to be filed as such under the fictitious business name filing and publication laws. If the corporation adopts and uses a name that is not the name registered with the Secretary of State, it IS fictitious and will have to be filed and published.
The system of filing fictitious business names, or DBAs as they are sometimes called, has nothing to do with protecting your name! It is for the protection of the public, so customers and creditors will know who the heck they are dealing with.
Domain names, copyrights, trademarks and registration of fictitious business names are separate concepts, for separate purposes, and have little overlap in legal effect. A domain name is just an electronic address, like 404 Mendocino Avenue, Suite 200, Santa Rosa, California 95401 - where my office used to be. My address was not my business name, nor was it my trademark, nor did I have a copyright. It was just something printed on my stationery to help people find me.
Just a clarification...if you actually use a domain name as a trademark, then it is a trademark and may be registered for further protection. A search of the USPTO trademark filing records will demonstrate many registered domain names, e.g. Amazon.com.
Proviso: The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship between us.
Contact: If you would like to discuss this matter further in a more private forum, please feel free to contact me directly at [email protected].
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