A simple definition of a fictitious name: A fictitious business name is one that does not use the business owner’s name.
If you are doing business under an assumed name, one different from your name, you need to file a “fictitious name statement.” This filing is required by law to connect the name of a business to the business owner. It protects consumers because it allows them to get information about the owner of a company if they have consumer problems or need to file a lawsuit.
Example: Susan Jones starts a catering business and calls it “Catering Capers.” The business name is fictitious because she is doing business under an assumed name that does not identify her as the owner.
Where to File
Check with your county clerk, the city where you will obtain your business license or your Secretary of State to find out where you need to file to do business using a fictitious name.
How Much It Costs
The filing fee ranges from $10 to $100; however, you may also be required to post a statement of intent to use a fictitious name in a local newspaper before you can file the fictitious name statement.
Be sure to check with your county clerk before running an ad. There are often restrictions on what publications you can use for your fictitious name advertisement, and you will be required to include very specific information in the ad.
Once the statement of intent has been published in a newspaper (usually for several consecutive weeks) you will need to submit proof of the statement ad to the county clerk or other filing agency.
Fictitious Business Name Restrictions
Only businesses that have registered with the Secretary of State as a corporation (a separate filing process) can use the terms “corporation,” incorporated,” or any abbreviations for these terms (i.e., “Inc.” or “Corp.”) in a business name.
If you are using a fictitious business name, most banks will not let you open a bank account until you have a business license or other proof that shows you have filed for a fictitious name.
Exceptions to Filing
Most states do not require a separate fictitious name filing for corporations unless the name under which the corporation will operate is different from the name under which the corporation is registered.
Example: Bear Trackers, Inc. may not need to file a fictitious name statement because they are incorporated. However, if Bear Trackers, Inc. does business under another name like “Bear Enterprises” they would have to file a fictitious name statement for the name that they are doing business under.
If you use a name other than your own to do business, you may have to file a fictitious business name statement (sometimes called “Doing Business As” or “DBA” statement).
Fictitious name statements are required for sole proprietorships and partnerships. Incorporated businesses may not need to file a fictitious name statement unless they are doing business under a name different from the corporation’s name.
In most states, you need to file a fictitious name statement before you can get a business license or open a bank account.