What Startups Need to Know About DBAs

In California, a startup must file for a “fictitious business name” (FBN), if it operates under a name other than its legal name. For startups, it may be important for you to become familiar the notion of a DBA—otherwise known as a DBA (“Doing Business As”), “assumed business name,” or “trade name.”

In your startup is only you as an individual, your fictitious business name can’t include the surname of the individual or a name that suggests there are additional owners. For partnerships, the fictitious business name can’t include the surname of any general partner or suggests the existence of additional owners. Finally, for a corporation, it’s a name not stated in the Articles of Incorporation.

Does My Startup Need a DBA?

That depends on your business objectives. If you’re a sole proprietor and would like to market your startup using a name other than your given name, like “Premium Puppy Paw Protectors” rather than “Patton’s Puppy Paw Protectors.” In California, you’re required to file a FBN any time you want to do business under a different last name, or if the startup owner doesn’t intend to use his or her own last name.

You’ll also need a FBN if your startup has a niche division that you plan to operate as a specialized business, or if your startup refines its goals and renames itself in a rebranding effort.

The requirement of filing a FBN in California ensures that consumers will know who actually own the business. The law was developed for consumer protection to prevent business owners from avoiding liability by operating their business under a different name.

Fictitious Business Name Statement Information

Prior to filing a FBN, you or your attorney should search the county business records to be certain that the name your startup wants is available. The county won’t do this for you, it’s your responsibility to make sure that the name isn’t already in use.

A Fictitious Business Name Statement must be filed with the Clerk/Recorder in the county in which your principal place of business is located and must be filed no later than 40 days from the time you commence business. In addition, you will need to publish the statement in a newspaper of general circulation in that county within 30 days after filing.

Every California county has different forms, so you will need to obtain the correct paperwork for each county in which you operate.

The Fictitious Business Name Statement expires five years from the date it’s filed, and a statement must be re-filed prior to the expiration date. But you don’t have to republish the statement if there isn’t any change of information.

Use an Experienced IP Attorney to Assist Your Startup

Using a fictitious name at your startup may have some legal, financial, and tax implications. Speak with a veteran IP attorney to make certain your company is in compliance with all of the local, state, and federal regulations.

Don’t begin using a fictitious name for your startup until you’ve registered your DBA. You risk a penalty and some embarrassment.

Contact Us

Your startup should consider the issues of using a fictitious name as part of your intellectual property strategy. Speak with an experienced intellectual property legal professional as you work to build your startup to discuss the types of intellectual property protection you may need and to be certain that your company is properly registered with the state of California.

Attorney Michael Ahmadshahi focuses on patents, copyright, and trade secrets in Irvine, California. The Ahmadshahi Law Offices are also located in Beverly Hills and Sherman Oaks. Call us at (949) 260-4997 or email [email protected] and let us help you with your intellectual property questions and the IP strategy for your startup.

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