Can You Have More Than One DBA for a California Corporation?

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

Can You Have More Than One DBA for a California Corporation?

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

It's common for a business to use a “doing business as" (DBA), or fictitious business name, that differs from the corporation's official name. There are many reasons California business owners choose to use DBAs for their companies, including using business names that don't include the owners' names or using DBAs that the owners believe will connect them with their intended customer bases.

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Before using one or more DBA names for your business, you need to follow certain steps for registration.

Protecting Californians from Confusion

California's laws regarding businesses using DBAs are intended to protect consumers from confusing or misleading business practices. The DBA laws, which can be found in the California Business and Professions Code, are designed to help ensure that customers doing business with a California company can identify the corporation behind the name, as that corporation is the legal entity that is ultimately responsible, regardless of the DBA it may be using.

Ensuring DBA Name Availability

Just as anyone establishing a new business in California must ensure the name they want to use for their new company is not already in use, you must also make sure that your desired DBA name has not been claimed by other businesses operating in the same county or counties. If another business has the same or a similar name, there is a risk of confusing consumers.

You can check name availability with the Secretary of State or county clerk's office. In California, DBAs cannot include “Inc.," “LLC," “Corp.," or other language that could give consumers the impression that the fictitious name is its own legal entity.

Registering Your New DBA Name

In California, each county manages the fictitious business name registration process independently, so you will need to find out which form or forms your county requires.

Generally speaking, you must provide basic information, including your corporation's registered name and business address, copies of your articles of incorporation, and the fictitious business name you want to use in that county. An officer of your corporation must sign the form and pay the required fees. Repeat the process for each county in which you wish to register the DBA. Similarly, if you want to use more than one DBA in a single county, you have to file separately for each name.

Publication Requirement

California's publication requirement states that people establishing new DBA names for their businesses must publish the new name, along with certain other requirements, in a newspaper in the applicable county at least once each week for four weeks.

This must be done within 30 days of filing the initial DBA registration paperwork with the county. As with the registration requirement, you need to make separate publications for each DBA name in each county where those names will be used. The publisher will, in turn, provide you with an affidavit of publication to provide to the county clerk's office within the required time frame.

Renewals

California fictitious business names expire five years after their initial filing date, so if you want to continue using the names, you need to renew them before they expire or you will have to repeat the registration process.

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