There are a few important steps to this relatively simple process, so let’s make sure you are ready to get a California DBA.
Filing for a DBA in your county within California is a relatively easy process. You will register the fictitious name for your business in your county since that is your principal place of business. Of course, there are a few other steps you will want to take and options to consider, so let’s look further into how a business lawyer files a California DBA.
By: Brad Nakase, Attorney
1) Searching Out your California DBA Name
One of the first steps in your DBA in California is to choose a name that you think is appropriate for your company. If you are struggling, there are various name generators on the web, but the best names usually are derived from what you see as the ‘purpose’ of your company. What does your business do well? Who is the clientele you expect to serve? What products or services do you create and provide, and most importantly: what would you like to be known for?
While there are plenty of businesses out there with similar names, do your best to make your name unique and memorable. One of the reasons businesses create DBAs is to separate their legal name or names from their company name. Sometimes, the DBA is a better fit for your California company.
Consider the difference in recognition and marketing between “Roberts LLC” and “Fresh Catch Seafood, LLC.” One of these makes it clear what to expect from the business: fresh seafood. The other doesn’t provide enough detail or name recognition to create much of a response.
Once you have one name you are focused on, or a shortlist, it is time to ensure that the name is available in California. The best place to start is the records belonging to your particular county in California. So, for example, if you are working on your California DBA in San Diego, and San Diego is the primary place where you will do business, then it is a good idea to search through the San Diego County records.
California’s Specific Rules
The DBA for your business cannot include suffixes related to business entities unless it is one of these entities. Let’s simplify this: business entity suffixes such as Inc., Corp., or Incorporated work as signals, signaling to the world how your business is structured.
If you are not running a corporation with limited liability, then “LLC” should not be a part of your name; this would be deceptive to customers and competitors alike. The point here is to ensure that your name is not deceptive but is instead a clear and honest representation of what your business does.
Trademark Search in California
For the next step, you will want to conduct a search of the United States Trademark System. This is to find out if a business has previously trademarked the DBA you have chosen. If the name is taken, do not despair: hopefully, you have a backup DBA or two, but if not, it is OK to go back to the drawing board. Do not worry; you will find the right California business name.
If your name is not taken, then you are one step closer to attaining a DBA in California. At this point, you may want to check on available web domains for your new business. Securing a domain that matches your DBA or is similar to it is another important step in this process since so much business is done online these days. This will help you stay ahead of the game and be prepared for the launch of your new California DBA.
2) Contacting the Clerk’s Office for your California County
The next step on your California DBA journey is to register your new name. You will do this in your primary business location, so if you are in Orange County, you will contact the clerk’s office of Orange County. If your DBA is in San Francisco, you will need to contact—you guessed it—the county of San Francisco.
Since the registration of DBAs and DBA rules and regulations are overseen by California, the process of obtaining a DBA doesn’t change too much from one county to another.
The following website for dba California county is for filing a fictitious business business name:
Outside of California?
Now, if your business will be located outside of California, it is necessary to get in touch with the county clerk of Sacramento. It is also important to remember that if you have formed a non-profit, then you do not have to file.
Example: DBA in LA
By now, you have decided on a business name, searched it out to make sure it is not already taken or reserved, and begun thinking about contacting your county clerk. Let’s use LA County as an example of what you should do next.
To file for a DBA in Los Angeles, California, you need to show that you have chosen your name and checked on its availability in their set of records dedicated to fictitious names. This must be done before starting the rest of the process involved in filing.
LA County has an online portal where you can access the forms and documents you will need to fill out in order to register. If you would like, it is also possible to request that the forms get sent to you or visit the office to get them in person. If you do apply in person, you will have to get your statements notarized. There is an affidavit form that will be useful for this, and it is also available through the county.
Begin by doing your research: conduct a search online to find out if your name is available. Then, follow the instructions on the LA County Clerk’s website for sending in a statement to reserve your fictitious company name. If filing online is not going to work for you, you may mail it or even register through a chosen third party. The fee ($26) is manageable, and after five years, remember that you will need to renew the business license. You might need a form of notarization when you renew, and you will be again expected to pay $26. You also might need a notarized form, depending on the process.
In the future, if you wish to change aspects of your DBA, you can visit the DBA amendment page via the website for LA County. It is also possible to withdraw a DBA if needed by using an Abandonment Statement. If at some point you need to withdraw your made-up business name, you can contact your county clerk and expect to receive an abandonment statement.
3) Post a Statement for your DBA
Next up, California will require you to find a local newspaper and publish a statement that expresses that your DBA is valid. This must be published each week for a month. The process will consist of:
- Calling the newspaper
- Discussing the process with them (they will understand and have worked with DBAs before)
- Getting a template from them
- The paper needs to be in general circulation in the California county where your business resides and where you are registering your name
- The ad must be published once per week for a month
- If your original DBA expires, you need to refile and publish it again
- An affidavit signifying this publication must be filed 30 days after you have completed it
DBA Q & A
Here are a few common questions we get asked. If you have additional questions, contact the office of your city clerk or get in touch with our California Business Lawyers & Corporate Attorneys.
Is it possible to file a California DBA online?
This might be. Possible, depending on your county. Contact the clerk to see or do some searching online. More and more, we are able to accomplish these tasks via the web, but some things still require things like notarized documents.
Is it possible to withdraw or take back my DBA?
Yes. Get in touch with the city clerk immediately, and then they will send you an abandonment statement. There are counties that do not have this form, but don’t worry: you can draw up your own simply by using the rules on the legislative website of your state—in this case, California.
Can I alter my LA DBA? How?
To adjust your DBA in California, go to the LA County website’s amendment page. Please note that this process might require a form of notarization.
When and how often do I need to renew my DBA?
Great question. You’ll need to do this every five years, and the forms are on the county website. You will also need to pay the fee again, of $26.
I’m still not sure I understand when exactly I need a CA DBA?
No problem. If you want your business to be run using a name that is entirely different from the legal name of your company, you need to get a DBA. For example, let’s say you are the only one running a proprietorship (sole proprietorship), and your business name does not include your last name; you need to register for a DBA.
Can a DBA be transferred in the state of California?
Sure. You must file what is called an amendment in order to alter the name of the business owner. Make sure to make a record of it.
Are California DBAs protected?
The reason that you run the searches that we went over is to make sure your name is unique. These are important! While some laws at the state level are meant to prevent fictitious business names from being too alike, this varies with the state. You can look into a trademarked DBA, too, which may provide better protection. Generally, it is up to you to be vigilant in case you find a company that is using your name.
Can I create multiple DBAs in California?
Sure! But be careful of the costs, the extra work, and the additional documents needed. We suggest focusing on one DBA to start and making that company the best it can be.
Do I need an EIN? What about a Tax ID number?
You do not. This is because DBAs are not business entities. However, your business, the company the DBA was registered under, may need a specific tax number depending on your county and state.
Can my California DBA be turned into an LLC?
Remember, a DBA is only a label. It is a name for your business and a status that is recognized, but it is not a business itself. The structure of your business is something entirely different.
Can I add LLC or Inc. to my California DBA?
Yes, if your business is an LLC or an Inc. If not, you cannot use these terms because that is deceptive to others. Make sure your DBA in California is a clear and eloquent name and not misleading at all.
I have multiple rental properties—can I assign DBAs to them in California?
We suggest asking a lawyer about this. At first glance, you may want to create an LLC in this situation, but all circumstances are different. However, if you have a rental under your name, then you add a DBA, you will not receive any amount of protection.