Understanding what “Doing Business As” Means in California

The phrase “doing business as” or “DBA” is a legal term used to signify that the trade name, or fictitious business name, under which the business or operation is conducted and presented to the world is not the legal name of the business responsible for it. For example, a company may incorporate under the name “XYZ Inc.”  This is their legal name and where the business’ creditors can seek payment or compensation, that is, any lawsuits against the company would, or should, be brought against this entity. However, XYZ Inc. can file for a fictitious business name that they will do business under, such as “Better Name Company.”  This name is their “DBA” and the full legal designation would be XYZ Inc., DBA Better Name Company.

In California, if you are going to have a DBA, you need to register a fictitious business name statement with the county clerk in the county where your principal place of business is located. A fictitious business name statement needs to be filed if the business is a:

  • Partnership;
  • Sole proprietorship doing business under a name that does not contain the owner’s last name; or
  • Corporation doing business under a name other than its legal name.

As stated above, unlike most corporate filings, when you are doing business as a fictitious business name, you do not file with the Secretary of State’s Office, and instead you will need to contact either your city or county clerk or recorder.  Be sure to ask about their specific filing requirements relating to DBAs, as fees vary and sometimes multiple copies of forms are required.

The fictitious business name statement needs to be filed either within forty days of starting the business or before the current statement on file expires.

After filing a fictitious business name statement, you need to publish a fictitious business name statement with the name you will be doing business as in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the statement was filed. You have thirty days to do this after filing the statement, and the publication needs to appear once a week for four successive weeks. After the last publication date, you have another thirty days to file an affidavit of publication with the county clerk’s office.

Ezer Williamson Law provides a wide range of both transactional and litigation services to individuals and businesses. We have successfully prosecuted and defended various types of business and property claims. Contact us at (310) 277-7747 to see how we can help you with your business law concerns.

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