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Do we need to register a fictitious business name if our last name is in the business name?

San Mateo, CA |

I understand that we need to register a fictitious business name only if we are doing business under a name or names other than our name (if you are a sole proprietor). So the question remains -- will our last name work?

For example, Joe and Nancy Smith owns the business as marketing consultants. Their business name is Smith Consulting. Based on the online database in San Mateo County, there is no business with our proposed business name.

Attorney Answers 3


  1. A partnership's business name is fictitious if it does not contain the last name of every general partner or if it suggests that someone else is a general partner. In the example you give, Smith Consulting would not be a fictitious business name because it contains the name of every general partner. On the other hand, "Smith & Wesson Consulting" would be a fictitious business name because there are no partners named Wesson.


  2. I think under your facts above you would be legally required to file a dba and I also think that every bank would require you to do so in order to open an account under, e.g. Smith Consulting.

    The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.


  3. I believe the proper approach would be for you to provide your name and the name of all partners or owners of the business and the actual business name you were using so legal counsel can make a determination of whether or not you need to file a fictitious name statement. If your business name has 20 words and your last name is one of the 20 words depending on what the other 19 words are it may or may be not necessary in regard to the fictitious name statement.

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