Fictitious Business Name

How to register a fictitious business name California - edited

There are many aspects to consider when you incorporate your business. One confusing step or element is the fictitious business name. In this article, we’ll explore this concept, when you will need one, and when you don’t need one.

What is a Fictitious Business Name California?

A fictitious business name is a name other than your personal name used for your business name. For example, if you were John Smith MD and your name is John Smith you can start your business. 

If you are operating your fictitious business name in California as Do It Yourself Law then you would be required to obtain a fictitious business name from the county where your business is located. The name of your business will be John Smith doing business as Do It Yourself Law. 

How to File a California Fictitious Business Name

You will need to go to your county recorder and file your fictitious business name application. You will need to check to see if the business name is available in your county. Then before approval, your business name will need to be published in a local newspaper circulated in your county anywhere from one to four weeks depending on the county you reside. 

You are only able to use the name in the county where you have registered your business name and only if that registration does not conflict with corporation names, limited liability company names, or other entity names in the State where your business is located. 

Registering a Trademark

The name you choose may be a registered trademark or service mark. You need to see if the name is available by searching at the trademark office both Federally at the United States Patent and Trademark Office or USPTO and within your State. 

You should also conduct a Google search to see where your business name is being used as a minimum check on the availability of the name.

Choosing Limited Liability

The biggest issue with obtaining a fictitious business name is you are personally liable for any debts the business incurs. If you sign a lease or get sued you will have to personally pay for all damages. If you instead decide to form a corporation or limited liability company then you are only liable for the business debts. 

The doctrine of limited liability is what protects you from personal liability. There are exceptions to the limited liability doctrine which is covered elsewhere. In summary, as long as you follow the corporate formalities and file what's needed you will generally be alright. 

There are many exceptions to protection by limited liability. If you commingle the assets of your entity and your personal assets you will be liable. So for example, when you pay for business expenses with your personal bank account you may become personally liable or if you were to assault a colleague you would also be personally liable.  


How does registering a fictitious name help with starting a business?

If you decide to use a name for your LLC or Corporation business that is not your given name you will need to register your fictitious business name. You will need to file your fictitious business name with the county recorder where your business is located. Unless you decide to set up a limited liability company or a corporation you will be personally liable for any debts the business incurs.

How long does a ficticious business name last?

When you file your fictitious name you will notified of how long your fictitious name will last. This is generally for five years. You will need to make sure that you file your renewal in time so your fictitious name reistration does not lapse.

When should a business name be registered as a ficticious name?

When forming your business you might need to register your business name as a fictitious buisness name. This is when you use a name other than your given name. So intead of John Smith Window Installation, you choose to be Homely Window Dreams, you would need to register the later as a fictional business name, while using your given name would allow you to start operating straight away.

Final Word

When forming a corporation in California you might choose to use a fictitious name. You will need to register your California fictitious business name with the county recorder and make sure this name is available to use in your county. You can find out more at Legal Stepz.


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