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