California Fictitious Business Name Filing Requirements

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

California Fictitious Business Name Filing Requirements

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

Under California state law, any entity that uses a fictitious business name (also referred to as a "DBA" or "doing business as") for the purpose of conducting business transactions must register that name with the state. This registration creates a public record of the real names of the business owners who work under the assumed business name.

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Like most states, California requires that each business registered with the state have a unique name. If an existing business already has the same name or one substantially similar, the new business must choose a different name under which to operate that is distinct from other businesses in the area. A business owner can search to see if a desired name is available by mailing a completed Name Availability Inquiry Letter to the California Secretary of State's office in Sacramento.

DBA Registration Requirements

Under the California Code of Business and Professions, for-profit business entities such as sole proprietorships, limited liability companies (LLCs), partnerships, and corporations must register their DBAs with the state. The California Code of Business and Professions does not govern nonprofit entities such as 501(c)(3) organizations, churches, unions, and fraternal organizations.

California requires that covered individuals and businesses register their fictitious business names with the county clerk within 40 days of starting business operations in the county of their principal place of business. If the company has its headquarters in California but conducts business transactions in a different state, it must still file for registration. In that circumstance, the business would register with the clerk in Sacramento County.

In California, registration of a fictitious business name is valid for five years. However, if the business undergoes a change in ownership or relocates, the owner must refile within 40 days.

Filing a DBA Application in California

Under the state's Business and Professions code, there are certain requirements for properly executing a DBA application. If the applicant is an individual operating as a sole proprietorship, the individual owner must sign the application. If an LLC is the applicant, an officer or manager must sign. For corporations, a corporate officer must sign, and if a trust is the applicant, the trustee must sign. Be sure to follow the requirements carefully to file the registration properly.

Providing Public Notice

California state law requires public notice for any DBA registration. A company operating with a fictitious business name can provide the public with notice by simply publishing the registration in a local media outlet—generally a county newspaper—with a broad and general circulation throughout the community.

If the relevant county does not have such a media outlet, the company must publish notice of their DBA registration in a neighboring county. If it is an out-of-state business that registered its fictitious business name in Sacramento County, the publication must occur in that county.

Once the company has published news of its DBA registration, the business owner must file an affidavit with the county clerk stating for the record that the publication occurred. This constitutes the final step of the registration process.

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