Before you open shop, claim a name

If you’re starting a business, one key step is to register the name of your company with the county clerk. This “fictitious business name” filing legally establishes the public name of your company. Things to know:

• A fictitious name registration must be filed within 40 days of starting a company in the county where you have your principal place of business. In Los Angeles County, visit In Orange County, start at and search for “fictitious business.”

• You do not have to file if you use your surname in the name of the business. So, “Tim Parker Plumbing” or “Parker’s Plumbing” are both exempt from registering, but “Tim’s Plumbing” is not. Also, if you use something like “Parker and Sons Plumbing,” you do have to file, because the name suggests additional owners.

• In Los Angeles, it costs $26 to register a business, plus $5 more for each additional business name or owner. The base fee is $23 in Orange County, $55 in San Bernardino County, $35 in Riverside County and $53 in Ventura County. Filings are good for five years, then can be renewed.

• Within 30 days of filing your fictitious name statement, you must publish it in an ad in a newspaper of general circulation in your area once a week for four consecutive weeks. The county clerk can tell you which newspapers you may use.

• You don’t want to create confusion by choosing a business name that’s already being used, so most county clerks offer an online search form so you can check. In Los Angeles County, visit