The law requires a company to have a registered agent. If the address on the SOS is invalid there are procedures that you can follow to serve the SOS as the agent for the company. I suggest hiring an attorney so you know that when service is made, its good service and a judgment cannot be thrown out later for lack of jurisdiction due to lack of service of process. I would not rely on service by publication as it may not lead to a money judgment. As to whether the clock is ticking, if you mean for them to answer, the answer is yes, as to whether discovery has started to run, that starts when the last defendant files and answer. However if no other defendants are ever served, it may start when the first answer is filed.
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Either the registerd agent listed with the secretary of state, or publication.
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