Choose a Business Name

Every business has to have a name but it is the type of name that matters. If your business name is going to include your last name, then your work on a name is done. However, any other name other than the owner’s last name requires filing a Fictitious Business Name statement. For example, if James Smith owns a sole proprietorship, and his business name is James Smith Painting, he would not need to file a fictitious business name. Using the same example, if the name was James and Sons Painting or House Painting Fast, then it would require filing for a fictitious business name because the name suggests additional owners and doesn’t include the last name of the owner. If James Smith 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 state in the articles of incorporation or articles of organization filed with the state.

Register a Fictitious Business Name

A fictitious business name statement ( or 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.

About Us

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