Any person or entity carrying on a trade of business under a name which does not include the owners’ last name and portray the nature of the business requires filing a fictitious business name statement. For instance, if Michael Rocco owns a sole proprietorship, and his business name is Michael Rocco Painting, he won’t need a fictitious business name because people will know who the owner of the company is. If he wanted to go by either Michael and Sons Painting or House Painting Fast, he would need to file, because the business name suggests additional owners and doesn’t include his last name. If Michael Rocco instead owned either an LLC or a corporation, and wanted to open up additional businesses under the LLC or corporation, he would need a fictitious business name statement for any business name not stated in the articles of incorporation or articles of organization filed with the state.

Registering a Fictitious Business Name

A fictitious business name statement (d.b.a. or “doing business as”) must be registered with the county clerk of the county of the registrant’s principal place of business if the business is any of the following:

  • Sole proprietorship doing business under a name not containing the owner’s surname, such as Smith Accounting Services;
  • Partnership; or,
  • Corporation doing business under a name other than its legal name.

Fictitious business names are not filed with the Secretary of State’s Office. There is no provision in California for registration, in a central registry at the state level, of fictitious business names. You must contact the city and/or county clerk and/or recorder where the principal place of business is located for information regarding filing or registering fictitious business names.

    NOTE: Even though a proposed corporate name has been checked and/or reserved, stationery, signs, corporate seals, etc., should not be ordered until you receive notification of filing from the Secretary of State’s Office, because the corporation is not created or qualified until appropriate documents have been filed with the Secretary of State’s office.

The statement must be filed within 40 days of the commencement of business or before the statement on file expires. Along with the original, the county may require several copies of the statement for filing. The county clerk will certify and return all copies to the registrant, keeping the original. Within 30 days after filing a fictitious business name statement, the registrant must publish the statement in a newspaper of general circulation in the county of its principal place of business. The notice must appear once a week for four successive weeks. Within 30 days of the last publishing date, the registrant must file an affidavit of publication with the county clerk’s office.

The fee to file a fictitious business name statement varies depending on the county or city where it is filed. Inquiries should be directed to the county clerk’s office in which the business will be located.

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The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) was created by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. to serve as California’s single point of contact for economic development and job creation efforts.  GO-Biz partnered with the State's Information Technology Leadership Academy 22 to create this website.

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