Questions often arise about the necessity of a business owner filing a fictitious business name statement (oftentimes interchangeably referred to as a “DBA” statement) when conducting business in the State of California. As with most subjects in California, the requirements relating to fictitious business names are codified by statute, in this case the California Business and Professions Code.

Generally speaking, the following circumstances would require the filing of a fictitious business name statement in the county or counties where the business is operating:
• Individual: When the registrant’s family name is not part of the business name, and no other words suggest the existence of additional owners.
• Partnerships or other associations of persons: When the surnames of each general partner are not part of the business name, and no other words suggest the existence of additional owners.
• Corporation/LLC: When using a name other than the name registered with the Secretary of State.
• Words that suggest the existence of additional owners: Company, & Company, & Associates, & Sons, & Group, etc.

The purpose of these laws is to protect those dealing with individuals or entities operating under fictitious business names and to ensure that the general public has a way to ascertain the true owner of such fictitious named businesses.

While each county has its own requirements and forms, an applicant must typically disclose the fictitious business name it is operating under, its address, and the identity and contact information of its owner within forty days of commencing business in a particular county. The filing is valid for a period of five years, at which time an applicant must file a renewal application to keep the statement current and in compliance with California law.

Once the statement is originally filed, an applicant is required to publish the fictitious business name statement pursuant to requirements contained in the applicable California Business and Professions Code section.

Finally, it should be noted that a whole host of issues can arise with respect to whether or not an individual or entity is legally authorized to use of a particular fictitious business name, even if a fictitious business name application is accepted for filing. There are several state and federal laws that govern the analysis as to use of a particular trade name, which should be carefully considered in conjunction with the contemplated use of a fictitious business name within the State of California.

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