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Emerging Sacramento Business Weighs Risks When Selecting a Fictitious Business Name

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Q: Can I include the name of any city or state in my business name or DBA?: I am planning to start my professional training business (sole proprietorship, but might file for LLC in future). Can I name my business as “California School/Collge of…xxxx or Sacramento center for XXXX….? I understand it will be subject to availability of the name, but I want to make sure that as a ‘sole proprietorship’, there are no hidden ‘legal issues’ in using the city/state name? We will have disclaimer on the website that we are NOT a city/state affiliated business. Any guidelines will be appreciated.

A: Yes, you can more than likely use the name of the City or State in the name of your business. City/State names are not given trademark protection so they are not protected from private use. However, if the name you select is substantially similar to that of an existing established company in the same industry, you could have a problem. The existing company could sue you, claiming that your use of a substantially similar name to theirs causes injury to their business reputation, dilutes the the distinctive quality of their business, and/or is unfairly confusing to the general public. To avoid this possibility, you should search the Fictitious Business Name database for Sacramento County (and other surrounding Counties), as well as, do a business name search with the California Secretary of State.