Naming a business is an important branding strategy for a person or entity involved in a for-profit trade or business in California. An individual or a business entity must file a fictitious business name (FBN) statement with the Office of the Recorder-County Clerk in the county where the business will be located, when the content of the business name is other than the owner’s last name.
This process is also known as registering a “Doing Business As” (DBA). If the business is located outside of California, the business is required to register with the Clerk of Sacramento County. Trade names are registered with the Secretary of State.
Filing an FBN statement makes the identity of the person doing business under the fictitious name available to the public. Registration is necessary when:
- A sole proprietorship will be doing business under a name that omits the owner’s last name.
- A partnership or other association that will use a name that omits the surname of each general partner or a name that suggests the existence of additional owners such as “Company,” “& Company,” “& Son,” “& Sons,” “& Associates,” “Brothers,” and the like.
- A limited partnership, corporation, or Limited Liability Company (LLC) will be doing business under a name unstated in the Articles of Incorporation or Articles of Organization filed with the California Secretary of State (SOS).
Example: If Michael Rocco owns a sole proprietorship, and his business name is Michael Rocco Painting, it is unnecessary for him to file a fictitious business name because people will know who the owner of the company is and the nature of the business. If he wanted his business name to be either Michael and Sons Painting or House Painting Fast, he would be required file because the business name suggests additional owners and his last name is excluded.
If, instead, Michael Rocco owned either an LLC or a corporation and wanted to open additional businesses under the LLC or corporation, he would be required to file a fictitious business name statement for any business name other than the entity’s legal name.
Filing an FBN establishes a rebuttable presumption that the first registrant has the exclusive right to use a certain DBA, if the name is being utilized. It is important to select a unique business name. Avoid using a name that resembles an existing business name or that may mislead the public.
Many cities and counties offer an FBN search on their websites. The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development conveniently provides links to most county and city websites through its CalGold website. The Secretary of State can determine if a trade name is already in use.
The fee to file a fictitious business name statement varies depending on the county where it is filed. Direct your inquiry to the County Clerk’s office in the county where the business will be primarily located. The filing is valid for five years or until the facts in the statement change, whichever occurs first.
A fictitious business name statement typically must be filed within 40 days of starting the business. Along with the original, the county may require several copies of the statement for filing. The Clerk will certify and return all copies to the registrant, keeping the original.
Within 45 days after filing a fictitious business name statement, the registrant must publish the statement in a local newspaper of general circulation near the principal place of business. The notice must appear once a week for four consecutive weeks. Within 45 days of the last published date, the registrant must file an affidavit of publication with the county office. Check with the County Clerk’s Office to determine if there is a specific list of approved publications that meet this requirement.
When you place your advertisement of the required notice, check with the publication to determine if its publisher will file an affidavit with the Office of the Recorder-County Clerk upon completion.