How to Register a Business Name in California

To register a business name in California, check if an existing business already uses the name. Then, register the business name with the California Secretary of State if the company is going to be an entity. Register the business’s name with the city’s county recorder if the business is not an entity.

Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Maria is opening her own clothing retail shop in Los Angeles. After months of thinking, she has finally settled upon two name choices: Retro Butterfly and Vintage Rose. She is aware that in California, one must register a business name with the state. Maria is eager to secure the rights to her favorite name so that no one else can claim it. When she checks the state naming database, she sees that Vintage Rose has already been taken by another business. Therefore, Maria decides to pick Retro Butterfly, and she pays to secure the name as her own. By registering her business’ name with the state of California, no other business can use the name Retro Butterfly.

Why Is It Important to Register a Business Name?

Starting a business venture in California is an exciting prospect. California enjoys the fifth-largest economy in the world, offering entrepreneurs plenty of opportunities to achieve success. However, before opening one’s company for business, an entrepreneur will need to complete the vital step of registering his or her business’ name first.

But why is registering a business name important in the grand scheme of things? By registering a business name, an entrepreneur is reserving it in a state or local database. This means that only a business owner can use the name, and no one else. It is a smart idea to register a business in California for several reasons. These reasons include the following:

  • The Secretary of State of California (SOS) or the particular county clerk’s office may require that a business owner register his or her business name.

  • An entrepreneur can prevent other businesses from operating under the same name as one’s own. This means that another business owner cannot use the same name, which can save an entrepreneur time and money, as well as legal problems in the future.

  • An entrepreneur may create their business in a formal, legitimate way. By registering one’s business name with the county or state, a business is officially put on the map. This can help increase visibility and consumer confidence within the market and business community.

Is It Necessary to Register a Business Name?

In the state of California, the requirements for business name registration depend on the entity type of the company.

Partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations are required to register their businesses at the state level. If the business owner wishes to operate under a name other than his or her own, he or she must file an additional fictitious business name statement with the county. This form is known as a “doing business as” (DBA) statement.

In California, sole proprietors are not required to register their businesses with the state. If the business owner wishes to operate under a name different than his or her own, he or she must submit an additional fictitious business name form (DBA) at the county level.

How Does a Business Get Registered in California?

The following guidelines address how to register a business in the state of California. Specifically, they describe the registration process for partnerships, LLCs, and corporations:

  • Check what names already exist and reserve a name that is not already in use. The reservation may be made by mail or in person at the Secretary of State’s office.
  • File a fictitious name statement with the county clerk’s office, if desired for the business.
  • Register the business as a legal entity (such as an LLC or corporation). This process involves the filing of articles or organization with the Secretary of State with the selected name. For instance, an entrepreneur must file Articles of Organization (Form LLC-1) with the Secretary of State’s office in order to officially create a limited liability company.

In order to officially register the name of a sole proprietorship, one must perform the following:

  • Submit a fictitious name statement with the county clerk’s office if so desired.

Business name registration is but one of the many steps involved in the business registration process. Other important steps for registering a business in California include the following:

  • Registering the business with the IRS (to get an EIN number)
  • Getting the necessary licenses and permits for one’s business. One may use the CalGOLD tool to figure out which licenses, if any, are needed to operate one’s business.
  • Signing up for payroll via the Employment Development Department (EDD).

How Much Does It Cost to Register a Business in California?

In the state of California, the cost of registering a business name will depend on which forms one files, as well as where one files it. Filing fees, of course, may always change.

An entrepreneur may reserve a business name for $10 with the Secretary of State. However, a business owner must pay $70 to file articles of organization for his or her LLC. That fee will increase to $100 if an entrepreneur is submitting articles of incorporation for a general stock corporation.

When it comes to filing a fictitious business name statement, the cost varies by county. For instance, at present it costs $53 to file the DBA statement in San Francisco County. However, it costs only $26 in Los Angeles County.

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