Whether you’re searching for the right business name for your S Corp in California or you need a fictitious name for your business, we can help. We’ve got all the information you need on how to conduct a CA corporation search, plus business naming rules, fictitious names and trademarks.

 

General Rules for Corporation Names

These rules generally apply to all corporations, wherever they're formed.

1
Your Corporation Name Must Be Unique

The name you select cannot be in use by any other business in the state. This is why it's so important to perform a California Secretary of State corporation search before you begin your incorporation paperwork.

2
Your Name Must Not Be Confusable with Another Business Name

It’s not enough for your corporation name to be unique. It also cannot be similar to the name of another business in the state. In addition, you cannot use any of the following features in an attempt to differentiate your corporation name from that of another business:

  • Suffixes, such as Corporation, Company, Incorporated, Incorporation, Limited, Corp., Co., Inc., etc.
  • Definite articles, such as “A,” “An” or “The”
  • The conjunction "And" or “&"
  • Numbers in place of numerals (or vice versa), e.g., "One World" is the same as "1 World"
  • The singular, plural or possessive forms of words
  • Abbreviations, punctuation, symbols, fonts, typefaces, etc.
3
Your Corporation Name Must Contain Certain Words

All corporations must use one of the following in their names, usually at the end of the name: “Incorporated,” “Corporation,” “Limited” or their abbreviations.

4
Your Corporation Name May Be Subject to Other General Restrictions

Most states will not allow you to incorporate with names that:

  • Are similar to the name of a federal or state agency or organization (e.g., FBI, FDA, California Department of Insurance, California Highway Patrol, Treasury, etc.)
  • Suggest affiliation with a federal or state agency or organization
  • Use the term “Olympic” or any terms that are trademarks of the International Olympic Committee
  • Imply a purpose that would be illegal for your business to carry out

Specific Rules for California Business Names

In addition to the general rules listed above, you'll need to follow some California corporation laws that apply to naming your business.

For example, per the state's Corporation Code Title 1, Division 1, Chapter 2, § 201:

The Secretary of State shall not file articles setting forth a name in which “bank,” “ trust,” “trustee,” or related words appear, unless the certificate of approval of the Commissioner of Business Oversight is attached thereto. This subdivision does not apply to the articles of any corporation subject to the Banking Law on which is endorsed the approval of the Commissioner of Business Oversight.

The name of a corporation shall not be a name that the Secretary of State determines is likely to mislead the public and shall be distinguishable in the records of the Secretary of State from all of the following:

  • The name of any corporation.
  • The name of any foreign corporation authorized to transact intrastate business in this state.
  • Each name that is under reservation pursuant to this title.
  • The name of a foreign corporation that has registered its name pursuant to Section 2101.
  • A name that a foreign corporation has assumed under subdivision (b) of Section 2106.
  • A name that will become the record name of a domestic or foreign corporation upon a corporate instrument when there is a delayed effective or file date.

Coming Up with the Ideal Business Name

The perfect business name can be elusive. We have a complete guide to choosing the right business name, but essentially, you'll want to choose a name that will:

Appeal to your customers

Be memorable enough to stand out

Best represent your product or services

Not be used by another business

Need help coming up with business name ideas? Try our free name generator.

California Corporation Search

Once you have an idea of the name you want, perform a California corporation lookup to make sure another company isn't already using that name.

You can use the state's business search engine to perform a name search.

You can also use our simple and convenient Business Name Search Tool, which will search the state's business registry for you.

Use Incfile’s free tool to do a California corporation search and find out whether your preferred name is available

Trademarks and Service Marks

You must be careful that your California corporation name doesn't infringe on the trademark or service mark of another business. The easiest way to ensure you're not infringing is to perform a trademark search through Incfile. If the trademark isn't already in use, you can even register it yourself.

Make sure your corporation is starting off on the right foot when it comes to intellectual property.

Let Incfile run a trademark search for you.

 

Register a California DBA

You may do business under a name different from your corporation's legal name. While many states refer to this as an assumed name, trade name or "doing business as" (DBA), it's a fictitious name in California. You may decide to use a fictitious name for a variety of reasons.

For example, your primary business may be called OC Hospitality, Inc., and you have a chain called OC Catering. You could register a fictitious name just for that brand. You'd do that by registering your fictitious name with the Clerk of Superior Court of the county where your corporation is located in, or you can have Incfile do it on your behalf with our DBA service.

In order to keep your business names unique, you can also use the California business entity search. You can perform a California fictitious name search to find out whether any other companies are already using the fictitious name you want. We can also help you with this via our DBA name service.

Note: A trade name is not the same as a trademark. Learn more about trademark vs. DBA.

Register and manage a DBA or fictitious name through our easy-to-use service
 

Register Your Business Name with the CA Sec State

You’ve performed a California SOS business search, checked availability, followed the naming rules and determined whether you need a fictitious name. Now you can register your corporation name in one of two ways.

1

If you don’t want to form your corporation right away, you can reserve the business name. You'll do this by submitting a Name Reservation Request form and filing it with the CA Sec State. The name will be reserved for 60 days. If you're starting your business right away, you don't need to reserve a name.

2

If you’re ready to start your corporation, you can indicate your chosen business name when you file your Articles of Incorporation with the CA Sec State. Or you can have Incfile do this for you.

Incfile can handle your State of California corporation registration paperwork for you — and we’ll do it for free!

Create a California Company for $0 + State Fee ($100)

FAQs About Naming California Corporations

How Do I Check Business Name Availability in California?

Use our free Business Name Search Tool and enter your chosen business name. You can also perform a search of the state's registry, which will tell you whether any other corporations or LLCs in the state are already using that name.

Are There Any Rules for Naming California Corporations?

Yes. Most corporations will be bound by general rules (applicable to all corporations) and specific rules (applicable in the State of California). We’ve detailed these rules above.

Can I Do Business Under a Name Different from My California Company?

Yes. You can conduct business under a fictitious name. Details are above.

Can I Reserve a California Corporation Name?

Yes. The California Secretary of State allows you to reserve a name if you're not ready to start your business immediately. Details are above. If you do want to start your business right away, you don't need to reserve a name.

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