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What if the defendant you are suing is using a fictitious business name (DBA)?

Businesses typically use "Fictitious Names" or "DBAs" to interact with their customers so it's likely that you are more familiar with a business's DBA rather than its legal name. Both are important when you are filing a case against the other party.

A "Fictitious Business Name", also known as "DBA" (doing-business-as) is a nickname that a business uses for branding. DBA’s are often used when sole proprietorships do not want to operate under the individual’s name or when a company wants to manage multiple businesses under one registered entity. Corporations, LLCs, sole proprietorships, and partnerships can all have DBAs.


  • A sole proprietorship dentistry owned by John Smith, but the dental business is named "Smith's Dentistry".

  • DBA = Smith’s Dentistry

  • Legal Name = John Smith

  • A restaurant owned by a corporation named ABC, Inc. may operate several restaurants, one called "Peggy's Famous Foods" and another called "Joe's Pancakes".

  • DBA = Peggy's Famous Foods

  • DBA = Joe's Pancakes

  • Legal Name = ABC, Inc

  • A growing business called Jane’s Jewelry, LLC wants to offer new fashion services without opening a new business entity. She can keep her existing LLC and file a new DBA under that umbrella.

  • DBA = Jane’s Jewelry

  • DBA = Jane’s Fashion Boutique

  • Legal Name = Jane’s Jewelry, LLC

Finding the DBA of a Business

You can find out if the business is operating under a DBA by checking with the appropriate state agency (typically Secretary of State) and/or at the local county/city level.

  • The state's Secretary of State (SOS) will have a database you can check to confirm whether or not the business is operating under a DBA.

  • The county, city clerk's office, or the local court clerk's office may have the DBA information if it's unavailable at the state level.

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