California Fictitious Business Name Filing Requirements

By Tom Streissguth

California law requires that any company doing business in the state under a fictitious name register that name. The purpose of a fictitious name filing is to create a public record of the real people and companies operating under assumed names, or "doing business as" (DBA) names. Since you may not register a name identical or deceptively similar to one already in use, the law also protects the rights of businesses to keep their name unique.

California law requires that any company doing business in the state under a fictitious name register that name. The purpose of a fictitious name filing is to create a public record of the real people and companies operating under assumed names, or "doing business as" (DBA) names. Since you may not register a name identical or deceptively similar to one already in use, the law also protects the rights of businesses to keep their name unique.

Filing Deadline

California sets out the rules for fictitious names in its Business and Professions Code. The law applies to sole proprietors, limited liability companies, partnerships and corporations operating for profit. It does not apply to non-profit organizations such as churches, fraternal organizations or labor unions. Any company or individual that does business in the state under a fictitious name must register within 40 days of commencing operations.

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Restrictions

California does not permit fictitious names that include the words corporation, incorporated or their abbreviations, unless the business is organized as a corporation in California or elsewhere. Similarly, the use of LLC or limited liability company is barred unless that's what the company is. The terms company and limited are allowed, however, as long as the business is not trying to imply that it is operating as a limited liability company.

Filing Location

California requires that a business register its fictitious name with the clerk of court in the county where the firm has its principal place of business. Only one registration is required; if the company does not do business within the state, it must file with the clerk of court in Sacramento County, the location of the state capital. The registration expires in five years, or 40 days from any change of ownership or business location.

Execution

The law sets out requirements for who may sign a fictitious name registration. For an individual sole proprietorship, the individual owner must sign. If it is a partnership, at least one of the general partners. In the case of a limited liability company, a company officer or manager must sign. If a corporation, a corporate officer must sign. If the organization is a trust, the trustee must sign.

Publication

The law requires public notice of the registration by publication in a local general-circulation newspaper within 30 days of the registration date. If the county in which the registration is filed has no such newspaper, the organization must publish in an adjoining county. If the company does not do business in the state and registers in Sacramento County, the law requires publication in Sacramento County. After publication is accomplished, the business files an affidavit with the clerk of court stating it has carried out this final step.

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Cancelling a DBA

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Business owners who use a name other than their own name are using a DBA, which is short for “doing business as” and also referred to as a trade name, assumed name or fictitious business name. A DBA is desirable when you want a name for your business that more readily identifies your products or services. Using a DBA is also the easiest and least expensive way for you to establish a name for your business. Before using a DBA, you should check available sources to determine whether another business is using the same DBA.

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A DBA, short for "doing business as," refers to the name a company or individual uses when it operates under a different name than its legally registered name. Most states require you to register your DBA with either your county clerk’s office or with your state government, depending on where you're doing business. DBAs are also called "assumed names," "trade names," or "fictitious names."

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