What is a Fictitious Name?

Published: Published: | By

Sole proprietors in Virginia who want to operate their business under a name other than their own legal name need to understand the requirements and process for using a fictitious name, also known as a “trade name” or “doing business as” (DBA) name. Here are some key points for sole proprietors to know about fictitious names in Virginia:

  1. Registration Requirement:
    • In Virginia, sole proprietors must register their fictitious name with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) before using it for business purposes. This is done to provide transparency to consumers and protect the public from fraud.
  2. Business Entity Type:
    • Fictitious names are typically associated with sole proprietorships, partnerships, or LLCs, as they allow these business structures to operate under a name that is different from the owner’s legal name.
  3. Name Availability:
    • Before registering a fictitious name, sole proprietors should check the SCC’s online database to ensure that the desired name is available and not already in use by another business entity.
  4. Registration Process:
    • To register a fictitious name, sole proprietors must complete and submit the “Fictitious Name Certificate” (Form CN-01) to the SCC. This form can be filed online or by mail. There is a filing fee associated with this registration.
  5. Registration Renewal:
    • Fictitious name registrations in Virginia are valid for five years. Sole proprietors must renew their fictitious name registration with the SCC within 60 days prior to the expiration date. Failure to renew can result in the name becoming available for others to use.
  6. Business Bank Account:
    • Once the fictitious name is registered, sole proprietors can open a business bank account under that name. This is important for separating personal and business finances.
  7. Legal Protections:
    • Registering a fictitious name does not provide legal protection for the name itself. If you want exclusive rights to the name, you may need to consider trademark registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
  8. Business Licenses and Permits:
    • Depending on the type of business you operate, you may need to obtain specific licenses or permits from local or state authorities in addition to registering the fictitious name.
  9. Compliance:
    • Sole proprietors using a fictitious name must comply with all applicable state and local laws and regulations related to their business activities.
  • Public Disclosure:
    • Information about the registered fictitious name, including the owner’s name and address, is publicly available through the SCC’s database.

It’s essential for sole proprietors in Virginia to follow the proper registration process for their fictitious name to ensure legal compliance and establish a distinct business identity. Consulting with a legal or Laurel Ridge SBDC professional can help navigate the registration process and understand any specific requirements related to your business activities.