Get a DBA Name for Your Rhode Island Business Today

If you’re an entrepreneur in Rhode Island, you may not wish to use your business’s full legal name for all of your company’s activities. If so, a “doing business as” (DBA) name could be a helpful branding tool, allowing you to conduct your small business under a different title.

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If you own a Rhode Island business and would like to use a different name than your legal business name, you will need to register a “doing business as” or DBA name at both the state and local levels. Known in Rhode Island as a fictitious business name, DBA names are typically used when you want to use multiple names for one business, or if you are a sole proprietor wanting to be recognized as something other than your legal name.

Want to learn more? This guide will cover the basics of what a DBA name is, the rules for choosing, registering, and maintaining one in the Ocean State, and how we can help make the process easier.

What is a Rhode Island “doing business as” (DBA) name?

A DBA name is simply another name that your business can go by when operating and doesn’t establish a new business when you register it. Hence, adopting one does not impact how your business is taxed. In the state of Rhode Island, a DBA name is referred to as a “fictitious business name.” 

There are two basic categories of businesses that use DBA names:

  • Sole proprietorships and partnerships: A DBA name allows sole proprietors and partnerships to use a business name other than their legal names without creating a formal legal entity. A DBA name is a less expensive way for small businesses to operate because it does not have the ongoing cost of maintenance and record-keeping that corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs) require.
  • LLCs and corporations: A DBA permits these companies to operate multiple businesses without needing to form separate legal entities. For example, a corporation with different products can register a DBA name for each product line. This lessens the cost and paperwork involved in growing their business.

Benefits of using a DBA

Here are some of the more common benefits of registering a DBA name:

  • A DBA makes it possible for sole proprietorships and partnerships to open a bank account under a business name that’s different from their own names. This allows business owners to receive and issue payments under a company name.
  • A DBA helps with brand development. Sole proprietors and partnerships can operate under a name that is more representative of their businesses. For example, “Dylan’s Custom Furniture” will have more of an impact than “Dylan Murphy.” Corporations and LLCs also use DBA names to distinguish each product or division of their business. For example, “Hair Creations by Kendra” and “Kendra’s Hair Care Products” may be registered under the umbrella of “Kendra Smith, LLC.”  
  • A DBA name creates a separate professional identity for a business. It also grants a company legitimacy in the eyes of its customers.

How do I choose a Rhode Island DBA name?

Whether your Rhode Island business is a corporation, an LLC, or a sole proprietorship, you should choose a DBA name that expressly communicates what you offer to customers. Come up with a name that will catch the attention of your target market. 

It’s also best to avoid DBA names that are too similar to other business names. Use the Rhode Island Department of State corporate database to check if the DBA name you want is not currently used by another business. 

Rhode Island DBA name requirements

Make sure your desired name also complies with Rhode Island’s entity name standard, which requires your DBA name to be “distinguishable upon the record.” The Secretary of State will deny a request for a name identical to a name on file in the active corporate database.

Take note that the following examples will not make your DBA name “distinguishable upon the record”:

  • Adding an article (a, an, the) to a fictitious name already in use 
  • Using the plural forms of the same word (e.g., “Millennial Baby” vs. “Millennial Babies”)
  • Changing the spelling of the same name or word (e.g., “Girls” vs. “Girlz”)
  • Using an abbreviation in place of a complete spelling of the name (e.g., “Southwest Industries, LLC” vs. “SW Industries, LLC”)
  • Using a variation of the same word (e.g., “Rhode Island Real Estate Company” vs. “Rhode Island Realty Company”)
  • Adding an entity designation status to an existing business name (e.g., “Anime Studios” vs. “Anime Studios, Inc.” vs. “Anime Studios, LLC”)
  • Changing the capitalization, punctuation, or adding special characters to an existing DBA name (e.g., “T-Bones, Inc.” vs. “T*Bones, Inc.” vs. “t-Bones, Inc.”)
  • Adding a numeric designation to an existing business name will be denied unless consent is granted (e.g., “Gourmet Bakery, Inc.” vs. “Gourmet Bakery I, Inc.” vs. “Gourmet Bakery II, Inc.”)
  • Changing how a number is spelled or represented in an existing DBA name (e.g., “2 Brothers Pizza, Inc.” vs. “II Brothers Pizza, Inc.” vs. “Two Brothers Pizza, Inc.”)

How do I register a Rhode Island DBA name?

To register a fictitious business name in Rhode Island, you will need to apply with the office of the Secretary of State. But if you are the owner of a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you will need to register with the office of the city or town clerk where you intend to do business. It’s important to note that some cities may require business entities other than sole proprietorships and general partnerships to register their DBA name with the city, as well, so you’ll need to check with your local city government to confirm. 

Below are the basic steps to register your DBA name with the Rhode Island Secretary of State:

  1. Check DBA name availability by using the Department of State corporate database.
  2. The state has a separate form for each business entity, so make sure you submit the right one for your business. You can find all of these forms in the document library.
    1. Fill out this “Fictitious Business Name Statement” if you are filing on behalf of a corporation. 
    2. Fill out this “Fictitious Business Name Statement” if you are filing on behalf of an LLC.  
    3. Fill out this “Fictitious Business Name Statement” if you are filing on behalf of a limited partnership. 
    4. Fill out this “Fictitious Business Name Statement” if you are filing on behalf of a nonprofit corporation.
    5. You will need the following information on the documents:
      1. Country or state of incorporation/formation
      2. Date of incorporation/organization
      3. The address of the registered agent
      4. The fictitious business name you want to register
      5. The signature of an authorized officer of the corporation, LLC, or limited partnership
  3. Your application can be submitted in person, filed online, or by mail addressed to the Rhode Island Business Services Division, 148 W. River Street, Ste. 1, Providence, RI 02904. 
  4. The filing fee is $50 for corporations, LLCs, and limited partnerships. You’ll pay $20 if you’re a nonprofit corporation. You can pay with cash, by credit card, or by check addressed to the Rhode Island Department of State.
  5. You can check if your registration is accepted online through the corporate database. If your registration is rejected, you can also check through the Rejected Filings Viewer.

How do I manage ongoing DBA name compliance in Rhode Island?

A registered Rhode Island fictitious business name does not expire or have any ongoing compliance requirements. However, you’d need to file a “Statement of Abandonment of Use of Fictitious Business Name” if you want to cancel your registration.

To file a cancellation, use the specific form intended for your business entity.

The documents can be filed in person, online, or by mail. The cancellation fee is $50, which is payable by credit card, with a check addressed to the Rhode Island Department of State, or in cash if you’re hand-delivering your application.

Rhode Island DBA FAQs

  • Fees are subject to change over time. Check the Rhode Island Department of State website for the most current fee schedule regarding DBA registration and renewal. For sole proprietors and general partnerships, the registration is made through the city or county clerk.

  • The office of the Secretary of State offers a processing time of one to three business days for any kind of business registration. To avoid delays with your application, do your due diligence and ensure that your desired DBA name complies with the state’s naming standards.

  • A DBA name is not required at all times. But it does have some advantages if you are a sole proprietor. A DBA name will allow you to operate under a business name that communicates what your business offers. For example, “Dylan’s Underwater Photography” will be better received by customers than if the owner simply goes by their legal name.

    Corporations and LLCs also benefit from using an assumed business name. A DBA name helps these businesses market their products or services. For example, an incorporated residential builder adding a real estate division may use a DBA name for the expansion to avoid confusion.

  • DBA names are generally not exclusive, which means other businesses could use the same name. Before you register your DBA name, you might want to use the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) database to check and make sure your name is available at the federal level. Since DBA names do not override trademarks, acquiring one is the most effective means to protect your brand.

  • If your Rhode Island business has different areas of operation, you may file more than one DBA name. If you’re a sole proprietorship or general partnership looking to conduct business in two or more cities or counties, you may need to register in multiple places since your registration is done at the city or county level.

  • The state of Rhode Island uses “fictitious business name” to refer to DBA names. In other states, DBAs can be referred to as “assumed names” or “trade names.”

  • You don’t need a DBA name if you plan to use your own name. But you will need to register for one if you want to operate under a business name other than your legal name.

  • Registering a DBA name for your Rhode Island business does not create a new legal entity or change your business structure. For these reasons, a DBA name won’t impact how your company is taxed at the local, state, and federal levels.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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Written by Team ZenBusiness

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