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How to Register a Business Name in California in 2023

    How to Register a Business Name in California
    (Last Updated On: September 18, 2023)

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    Welcome to our blog post on how to register a business name in California! Whether you choose to form an LLC or corporation or opt for a “doing business as” name (DBA), we’ll walk you through the steps for a successful and compliant registration process. Need expert guidance? Consider partnering with ZenBusiness for a hassle-free experience. Let’s make your California business dreams a reality together!

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    4 Steps to Register Your Business Name in California

    Registering your business name in California is a fundamental task when establishing your entrepreneurial presence in the Golden State. To guide you through the process, here are four straightforward steps to officially register your business name in California:

    Step 1: Choose Your Business Structure in California

    When starting a business in California, one of the crucial steps is registering your business name. The process involves choosing the right business structure that aligns with your enterprise’s nature and growth plans. In California, there are several incorporated and unincorporated business structures available, each with its unique features and functionalities. Let’s explore these structures and understand the registration requirements for each:

    Sole Proprietorship

    A sole proprietorship is the simplest business structure where the owner and the business are considered a single entity legally. The owner bears personal responsibility for the business’s debts and liabilities. Setting up a sole proprietorship in California is easy, with minimal legal and administrative requirements. Notably, you don’t need to register your sole proprietorship with the state, but you might need to obtain local permits or licenses.

    General Partnership

    A general partnership involves two or more individuals jointly owning a business and sharing its profits and losses. Each partner carries personal liability for the business’s debts and legal obligations. In California, you don’t have to register a general partnership with the state, but filing a “Fictitious Business Name Statement” (DBA) in the county where your business operates might be necessary.

    Limited Partnership (LP)

    A limited partnership in California consists of general partners with unlimited personal liability who manage the business and limited partners who contribute capital with limited liability. To form an LP in California, you must file a “Certificate of Limited Partnership” with the California Secretary of State.

    Limited Liability Company (LLC)

    An LLC is a flexible business structure that offers the liability protection of a corporation combined with the tax benefits and simplicity of a partnership. To establish an LLC in California, you need to file “Articles of Organization” with the California Secretary of State and create an Operating Agreement to outline the company’s management and ownership structure.


    A corporation is a distinct legal entity from its owners (shareholders) and provides limited liability protection. There are two main types of corporations in California: C-corporations and S-corporations. Setting up a corporation involves filing “Articles of Incorporation” with the California Secretary of State, depending on your business type. Corporations require more formalities, such as creating bylaws, issuing stock, and conducting regular board and shareholder meetings.

    Choosing the right business structure in California is as crucial as it impacts liability protection, taxation, and management requirements. Take the time to assess your needs and seek advice from legal or business professionals to make an informed decision. 

    Once you’ve determined the ideal business structure, follow the appropriate registration process to get your business up and running in California.

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    Step 2: Select a Unique Business Name in California

    In California’s vibrant business landscape, your business name is crucial for standing out and attracting attention. California offers three ways to name your business: registering a legal entity name, securing a trademark, or using a Doing Business As (DBA) registration. Understanding the naming rules is vital to ensure uniqueness and protection.

    Choose the naming method that suits your business needs best: legal entity name, trademark, or DBA. Let’s explore each option:

    When registering a business in California, you must establish a legal entity name, which serves as the official identification of your company by the state. The name you choose must be unique, ensuring that no other business shares the same name.

    California’s naming laws include specific guidelines for using appropriate company suffixes, such as LLC, LP, or Corp, and the name should accurately reflect the type of business you’re registering. To check the availability of your desired name, you can utilize the California Secretary of State’s Business Search database.


    Obtaining a trademark for your business name or logo provides intellectual property protection at a national level. Before finalizing your name or logo, it’s essential to conduct a thorough search in the USPTO database to ensure that no one else has already registered a similar trademark.

    Registering a trademark grants you exclusive rights to use the name or logo for related goods or services, providing nationwide protection. However, it’s essential to note that having a trademark does not automatically grant you the right to use the name or logo in all situations.

    Doing Business As (DBA)

    In California, you have the option to register your business under an official name and operate using a different name, known as a Doing Business As (DBA) name. To register a DBA, you must file a Fictitious Business Name Statement with the county clerk’s office in the county where your business operates. While DBA names are subject to federal trademark laws, there is no requirement for a DBA name to be unique at the state level.

    By carefully considering and exploring these naming possibilities, you can confidently choose a distinctive business name in California, establishing it as the foundation of your presence in the state’s competitive market. 

    This strategic selection of a unique business name will set your business apart and foster growth in the dynamic world of entrepreneurship while also safeguarding and enhancing your brand identity.

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    Step 3: Check Business Name Availability in California

    Before registering your business, it’s essential to ensure that the name you have in mind is available and not already in use. To conduct a comprehensive search for business name availability in California, follow these three steps:

    Begin by conducting a federal trademark search to check if your desired business name has already been trademarked. Trademarks are registered at the federal level, which takes precedence over state-level registrations. Avoid using a name that’s already trademarked to prevent legal issues. To perform the search, visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website and use the TESS Search tool.

    >> File a Trademark with IncFile >>

    Once you’ve confirmed that your preferred name isn’t trademarked, proceed to check its availability for use in California. Use the California Business Entity Search to search for registered business names in the state. Ensure that your exact business name is available, and also check for any significantly similar names used by other businesses.

    After ensuring that your business name is free from trademark and available for use in California, consider conducting a website domain search. Look for the availability of the .com version of your business name. While not every business may need a website, it’s still advisable to secure the .com domain if possible.

    Registering the .com version of your business name with ZenBusiness protects it from being used by others at an affordable cost. By following these three steps, you can confidently register your business with a unique and legally available name in California.

    Step 4: Form Your Business With the State of California

    Once you have decided on your business structure and chosen a name, the next step is to officially form your business by registering it with the state of California.

    If you plan to operate as a Limited Liability Company (LLC), you’ll need to file the Articles of Organization with the California Secretary of State. This can be done online, by mail, or in person. On the other hand, if you’re establishing a corporation, you’ll need to file the Articles of Incorporation with the California Secretary of State.

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    Protect Your Business Name With a Trademark

    After confirming the availability of your business name and securing it, you have the option to apply for a trademark. The cost of obtaining a trademark typically ranges from $225 to $400, and there might be additional attorney fees. Additionally, a renewal fee will be required every 10 years.

    While obtaining a trademark can be a significant expense for start-ups or small businesses, it provides nationwide brand protection under federal law. This means that if others attempt to use a similar name for their business, you’ll have legal grounds to protect your brand. However, for most small businesses operating locally, obtaining a trademark isn’t necessary.

    >> File a Trademark with IncFile >>

    How to File a California Fictitious Name – DBA?

    To file a California Fictitious Business Name, also known as a Doing Business As (DBA) name, follow these steps:

    1. Research the availability of your desired name
    2. Choose the county where your business is located
    3. Get the “Fictitious Business Name Statement” form from the county clerk’s office or website
    4. Complete the form with the required information
    5. Notarize the form if needed (check with the county)
    6. Pay the filing fee
    7. Publish a notice in a local newspaper (if required by the county)
    8. Receive the certified copy of the Fictitious Business Name Statement
    9. Renew the DBA as necessary (usually every five years)

    Always consult with legal or business professionals for advice specific to your situation to ensure compliance with all relevant laws and regulations when filing a California Fictitious Business Name.

    How to Change the Name of a California Business?

    If you ever need to change the name of your business in California, there are two methods to do so:

    • Filing for a Fictitious Business Name (DBA name): This is the simplest way to operate your business under a different name without altering its legal name. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships can use a DBA name. For LLCs and corporations, it allows them to operate with brand names that don’t include the required LLC or Inc. suffix found in their legal name.
    • Submitting an amendment to the legal name: If you want to officially change the legal name of your LLC or corporation, filing an amendment is the appropriate option.

    For either method, the necessary forms and a filing fee of $30 must be submitted by mail.

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    Business Name Registration Laws in California

    The laws and regulations regarding business name registration in California are as follows:

    • Business Structure: Before registering a business name in California, you must first choose a business structure. Common structures include sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), corporation, etc.
    • Fictitious Business Name Statement (DBA): If you’re operating a business under a name that’s different from your legal business name (e.g., “John Doe Plumbing” instead of “John Doe, LLC”), you’re required to file a Fictitious Business Name Statement, also known as a Doing Business As (DBA) statement. This registration is done with the county clerk’s office in the county where your business is located.
    • Business Name Availability: Before registering your business name, it’s essential to check its availability to ensure that no other business in California is using the same or a very similar name. You can perform a name search through the California Secretary of State’s website to check name availability.
    • Business Name Restrictions: The chosen business name should comply with certain restrictions. For instance, it should not be misleading to the public, contain inappropriate language, or infringe on the trademarks of other businesses.
    • California Secretary of State (SOS) Registration: Some business structures, such as corporations and LLCs, must be registered with the California Secretary of State. However, registering your business name with the Secretary of State does not give you exclusive rights to the name; it primarily focuses on the legal structure of the business.
    • Trademarks: While registering a business name with the state provides some protection, it does not grant you trademark rights. If you want exclusive rights to your business name throughout the United States, you should consider applying for a federal trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

    Please note that the laws and regulations may have changed, so it’s essential to consult with the California Secretary of State’s website or seek legal advice to ensure you comply with the most up-to-date requirements for business name registration in California.

    Bottom Line on How to Register a Business Name in California

    In conclusion, taking the initial step of registering a business name in California sets the stage for an exhilarating entrepreneurial venture. By carefully choosing a distinctive business structure and name, fulfilling all necessary registrations, and considering the importance of trademark protection or a DBA name, you establish a robust groundwork for prosperity.

    Moreover, leveraging the services of ZenBusiness can offer expert guidance and unwavering support throughout the registration process, streamlining your journey to success in California.

    With unwavering passion and unwavering resolve, you embark on a remarkable journey, making an indelible impact on California’s thriving business landscape. The future shines brightly as your registered business name paves the way forward.

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    How to register a business name in every US state: