One of the first and most important steps of any new business is finding the perfect name for your California LLC.
Checking the LLC name availability in California is an important step in the business formation process. It ensures your business name is distinguishable from the names of other California businesses so that you do not violate anyone’s intellectual property rights.
Our California LLC Name Search guide will show you how you can find available business names in California, and how to reserve and register your business name.
How to Search for a California LLC Name
Below are the four steps that you need to follow in order to conduct an LLC name search in California.
Step 1: Follow the California LLC Naming Guidelines
Before you embark on an LLC name search in California, there are a few restrictions and requirements you should keep in mind. You will need to ensure that you follow the following naming guidelines so that your company name is easily accepted:
- Using commas in California LLC names: California LLC names can be created with or without commas as the Secretary of State accepts both forms. For instance, if you plan on naming your business “Orange Grove Brewery”, you can name your business either: “Orange Grove Brewery LLC” or “Orange Grove Brewery, LLC”
- Use the right designator: in California you don’t only have to use the LLC designator. California’s Section 17701.08 (a), states that your LLC name must include one of the following designators (“endings”): LLC; L.L.C.; Ltd. Liability Co.; Limited Liability Co.; Ltd. Liability Company or Limited Liability Company
- Be aware of the words or designators that you are not allowed in your California LLC name. This includes ensuring that your California LLC name does not imply that your company is a Corporation or any other type of business entity other than an LLC. The following words and designators can be used anywhere in your California LLC name: Inc. or Incorporated; Partnership; Corp. or Corporation; LP or L.P.; LLP or L.L.P.; Trust; Insurance Company; Bank; or Insurer
- In addition, your California LLC name may not include words which are prohibited by law. For instance, you cannot use any words that make your California LLC sound like it might be a government agency or similar. This means you can’t include words like Fire Department, Police, Government, Federal, United States of America, City, Town, or County. In other words, you cannot use an LLC name that might mislead the public
- Always ensure that your California LLC name is easily distinguishable. Section 21005.5 of the California Code of Regulations, states that the LLC name you choose to use must be unique and distinguishable in the California Secretary of State’s records. Distinguishability of an LLC name consists of several components. For instance, when your LLC documents are reviewed, the reviewers will be looking at your LLC name to ensure that central components of your name are distinct from other existing businesses in California. LLC name reviewers will ignore designators, punctuation, special characters, capitalization, articles and conjunctions, certain abbreviations, and singular and plural words.
Selecting a name is just one of the several requirements when forming an LLC. To avoid improper or incomplete LLC formation documents, we recommend using the assistance of an LLC formation service.
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Step 2: Look Up California LLC Name Search Availability
The next step is to conduct a California LLC name search. Below are a few ways to do a business name search in California.
- Navigate to the Business Entities Search tool and select “LP/LLC Name” and run your searches. Enter the first few words of the LLC name you’d like to use. This helps to ensure that your results will include all the possible similarities. To improve your search results, exclude the designator (i.e.: “LLC”) when you search. You can also exclude punctuation like periods, commas, apostrophes, etc. Also there’s no need to concern yourself with any upper- or lowercase letters as the database will ignore capitalization anyway.
- Domain Name Search: If your business name is still available, you must register for a domain name. Having a URL that matches your business name is important since this is how your potential and existing clients can find your business.
To determine the availability of your chosen URL, use a domain registrar, such as GoDaddy.
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Note: While you can use social media to search for business names to determine your desired name, the search results might not give you useful insight if your desired business name is available and exclusive for use.
Step 3: Reserve Your California LLC Name
Your LLC name can be reserved for a period of 60 days by submitting a name reservation online through the Secretary of State’s bizfile Online portal.
Your LLC name reservation can be renewed in the name of the same applicant or for the benefit of the same party, but not for consecutive 60-day periods. There must be at least 24 hours between 60-day reservation periods.
It’s important to keep in mind that reserving a name doesn’t guarantee the name will automatically meet all of the state and federal requirements related to a specific entity type. This compliance review step happens when your documents are submitted to the California Secretary of State’s office for filing.
Using a California DBA for Your LLC
In California, rather than seeing the term “DBA”, you’re more likely to see the term FBN (Fictitious Business Name) used in California. FBNs must be registered with the County Clerk’s office in the county where your business operates or the Registrar-Recorder.
When you register an FBN, this legally connects you to your chosen DBA name. It will become part of public record as California law requires that you advertise your FBN in your local newspaper. This must be done within the first 30 days of registering the DBA.
Before filing your DBA paperwork, you will need to ensure that you get in touch with the county clerk in your area to ascertain the most up-to-date information on filing fees. Rates for filing will depend on where you live. In LA County, for instance, searching the name database costs $5 and it costs $26 to file your application. Every year thereafter will cost another $26 when you renew your DBA.
LLC owners sometimes choose to brand their businesses with a DBA. Most sole proprietors and general partnerships use a DBA to create a brand other than their surnames.
Step 4: Register a California LLC Trade or Service Mark
Registration and updates of California state trademarks and service marks is done by the Secretary of State’s office. This information is accessible through the California Trademark Search tool, which will supply free PDF copies of imaged Trademark documents. Upon request the Secretary can also supply any documents yet to be imaged. You can find the general provisions governing service and trademarks in the Model State Trademark Law, California Business and Professions Code sections 14200 et seq.
Applications can be made online through the California Secretary of State’s bizfile Online portal, through the mail, or in person at the Sacramento office.
Registering a trade or service mark is not the same as filing a formation document. If you’re registering a business in California, check out the steps on how to form a California LLC.
California Secretary of State Contact Information
California Secretary of State
P.O. Box 942870
Sacramento, CA 94277-2870
California Secretary of State
1500 11th St., 5th Fl.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Hours: Monday–Friday, 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. PT
Email Contact Form: sos.ca.gov/administration/contact-information/email-administration
Phone: (916) 653-7244
California LLC Name Search FAQ
Why do I need to do a California LLC name search?
When forming a California LLC, you will be required to choose a name. This name must be unique and available for use and should not already be registered with the California Secretary of State. To search for available LLC names, you can use the California Business Entities Search tool on the Secretary of State website.
How do I check if an LLC name is taken in California?
You can use the California CA Secretary of State: Business Entities Search tool to check if your business name is available. You may also contact the California Secretary of State via phone at (916) 653-7244 or email them using a contact form for assistance on how to perform a California LLC name search.
Can I renew a California LLC name reservation?
Yes. You can renew a name reservation by filing a new application during the 60-day period before the expiration of your last name reservation. Simply navigate to the bizfile Online portal to submit your renewal application.
Is the California Secretary of State LLC name search reservation tool free to use?
Yes. You can use the California Business Entities Search tool to find and reserve a name for your LLC. Simply enter the desired name for your LLC. If the name is available, you can reserve it for 60 days.