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

By Jeff Franco J.D./M.A./M.B.A.

In California, an incorporated business is eligible to hold itself out to the public under a fictitious business name, or DBA, that’s different from the corporation’s legal name. There are a number of advantages to using one or more DBAs for a California corporation, such as when the legal name doesn’t exactly relate to the business. But before you can start using a DBA, you’ll need to file some paperwork in the California county where your business operates.

Overview of DBA Law

Sections 17900 through 17930 of the California Business and Professions Code govern the creation and use of DBAs by a corporation. Nothing within these code sections precludes a corporation from using more than one DBA. However, there are procedures that must be followed in order to protect California consumers from unnecessary confusion. For example, one provision prohibits a corporation from using a DBA that includes terminology such as “Inc.” or “Corp.” in the name since it implies that it’s a legal entity rather than a DBA. The ultimate goal is to ensure that every DBA can be traced back to the corporate entity, which is responsible for any issues that may arise with any of its divisions that use a DBA.

Checking DBA Availability

As your California corporation grows and the use of more than one DBA becomes necessary, you’ll need to make sure that no other business within the county where you intend to operate the business already uses it. The county clerks throughout California maintain databases of all fictitious business names currently being used, so a thorough search through your county’s database is necessary before filing DBA registration documents. Moreover, whether you use the same DBA in multiple counties or create multiple DBAs in just one county, each business name you register will require a separate filing.

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California DBA Registration

All California counties are subject to the same DBA laws, but the clerk of each county is responsible for its enforcement within the jurisdiction, which includes receiving and executing fictitious business name statements. In addition to the available DBA name you’ve chosen, the registration form needs to include the principal business address within the county, the legal name of your corporation and a copy of the articles of incorporation that were filed. Lastly, the registration form must bear the signature of a corporate officer and be filed with the appropriate fee.

Publication of DBA

One reason that corporations choose more than one DBA is to separate different lines of business or divisions within the company. But regardless of the reason for creating multiple DBAs, California law requires that each DBA be separately publicized in a newspaper that circulates within the county where it’s registered at least once per week for four weeks. Also keep in mind that if you register the same DBA in multiple counties, you’ll need to publicize the fictitious name in each county.

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Any type of business can use a DBA, or "doing business as," designation as long as the proper paperwork is filed with the state where the business is operating. However, if the business is only using a DBA, it is most likely operating as a sole proprietorship. A sole proprietor must file articles of organization with the state to covert the business into a limited liability company, or LLC, and inform the state that the DBA registration is to be transferred to the new company.

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How to Incorporate a DBA in California

The term “DBA” is an acronym for “doing business as” and refers to a fictitious name that a company may use in the course of transacting business. A DBA must be registered if the company wishes to use a name other than what appears in its articles of incorporation. It is not possible to incorporate a DBA as you would do with a business, but you can incorporate your company and then register a DBA. You might wish to do this for several reasons, one being the fact that a fictitious name allows you to create a unique persona for your business. Fictitious business names must be registered in the county where the company has its principal place of business. Statewide fictitious name filings are not available in California.

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