Guide to Laws About Business Name and Branding in California

So you picked out a name for your business, and now you want to make sure nobody else in the world gets to use it, right? Or you want to avoid someone else claiming that you are infringing on their rights, potentially forcing you to change your business name. Here’s what you need to know.

How do I know if my desired business name is available?

There are essentially two parts to securing and using a business name in California:

  1. Search the BizFile Online database of the California Secretary of State for the name
  2. Search for any existing trademark rights for the name OR similar names

To be able to freely use a business name in California, you must be able to “clear” it in these ways. See more about trademark law.

How do I get a trademark?

Because trademark law is mostly created at the national/federal level, be check out our Guide to Protecting Your Business Name in the U.S.

Can I get a trademark within California?

Yes, you can get a state trademark instead of, or in addition to, a federal trademark. But usually this is an unnecessary step (but talk to your lawyer). If you do want to file for a California state trademark, see the California Secretary of State office.

Do I need a DBA for my business name?

You would need a DBA if you do not have an entity (e.g. corporation or LLC) and you want to use a business name that does not include the names of the owners. Or if you do have an entity, and want to use a business name other than your entity name. See more at our Guide to the DBA.

Further Resources

See our Guide to Business Structures

See options for getting legal help on trademarks in the California area.

Related Pages


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