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  • Writer's pictureMina Vu

What is a Fictitious Business Name?

May 3, 2024

A fictitious business name (FBN), often known as a doing business as (DBA) name or trade name, is a name used for a business that does not include the surname of the individual owner or implies the existence of additional owners (Business and Professions Code § 17900). The primary reason for registering a fictitious business name is to ensure consumer protection and transparency by informing the public that a business is conducting business under a name that differs from its legal name. Further, a DBA name will allow the public and authorities to identify the actual owner of a business, which is essential for legal, financial, and security reasons. California is one of the states that requires a business to file a DBA as outlined in the California Business and Professions Code §§ 17900 - 17930. This requirement extends to any business name that differs from the official registered name of the corporation, limited liability company, or other entity operating the business. 

The registration must be completed within 40 days from the date the business commences and the process of registering a fictitious business name can be found in the California Business and Professions Code § 17910 - 17913. The business owner or owners must file a fictitious business name statement with the county clerk of the county where the principal place of business is located. This statement must include the fictitious business name, the street address of the principal place of business, and the full names and residence addresses of the owner(s). For businesses without a physical location in California or foreign entities, California Business and Professions Code § 17915 mandates that the filing be done in Sacramento County.  

The filing process also involves publishing the statement in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the document is filed, as detailed in California Business and Professions Code § 17917. Non-compliance with the FBN requirements can have significant legal implications. According to California Business and Professions Code § 17930, failure to comply with the filing requirements can result in a misdemeanor charge. The business may also face civil actions if it enters into contracts or other legal agreements under an unregistered fictitious business name. 

Abandoning the Use of the FBN

Upon filing and approval by the county, the FBN expires five years from the date of filing or when the business ceases operation under that name. Renewal requires refiling the FBN and, if applicable, republishing the statement. Similarly, if a business decides to abandon a registered FBN, it must file a statement of abandonment of use of fictitious business name with the county clerk. 

Common Misconceptions

There is a common misconception that forming a legal entity such as an LLC or corporation automatically allows the use of any variant of that name. However, if the business operates under any name that is not identical to the entity's legal name, an FBN filing is required. This distinction is crucial to avoid legal pitfalls and ensure proper business operations. 

Additionally, an FBN does not provide intellectual property protection. The registration of an FBN is purely a business identification requirement and does not confer trademark rights. To avoid potential legal issues relating to trademark infringement, businesses should conduct a comprehensive trademark search before selecting an FBN.  

When selecting an FBN, consider the following best practices: 

  1. Conduct a thorough search to avoid conflicts with existing business names or trademarks. 

  2. Ensure the name is unique and reflective of your business identity. 

  3. Understand the renewal requirements and maintain compliance to avoid legal complications. 

Contact us now for assistance with filing your DBA to further protect your business and stay compliant with the law. 

All information provided is strictly educational and does not constitute legal advice. Any past or previous results do not guarantee future outcomes as results may vary. For legal advice, please consult with a licensed attorney.



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