Whether you’re searching for the right California business name or registering your LLC name with the California Secretary of State (CA SOS), we can help. We’ve got all the information you need to conduct a California business search, plus naming rules, fictitious names and trademarks.
General Rules for LLC Names
These rules usually apply to all LLCs, regardless of the state they're formed in.
The business name you select cannot be in use by any other corporation or LLC in the state. This is why it's so important to perform a CA Secretary of State business search before you begin your formation paperwork.
It’s not enough for your LLC name to be unique. It also cannot be similar to the name of another LLC or corporation in the state. Furthermore, you cannot use any of the following features for differentiation:
- Suffixes, such as Corporation, Company, Incorporated, Incorporation, Limited, Corp., Co., Inc., Ltd., LLC, etc.
- Definite articles, such as “A,” “An,” or “The”
- The conjunction "And," or “&"
- The singular, plural or possessive forms of words
- Abbreviations, punctuation, symbols, fonts, typefaces, etc.
All LLCs must use one of the following in their names, usually at the end of the name: “Limited Liability Company,” “L.L.C.” or “LLC.”
Most states will not allow you to form LLCs with names that:
- Are similar to the name of a federal or state agency or organization (e.g., FBI, FDA, California Workforce Commission, California Rangers, 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 California LLC law applicable to naming your business. For example, per California Code of Regulations Title 2, Division 7, Chapter 8.5, §21005, you may not choose a business name that is likely to mislead the public.
a. If the proposed name creates a false implication of government affiliation.
The Art of Naming Your Business
Finding the perfect business name can be tough. We have a complete guide to help you choose the right business name, but basically, you'll want a name that will:
Need help coming up with business name ideas? Try our free name generator.
California Business Entity Search
Once you've decided upon a name, you'll want to perform a California business search to make sure it isn’t already taken by another business in the state.
You can use the state's online portal to do a name search. Or you can use our simple and convenient Business Name Search tool, which will search the California Secretary of State registry for you.
Trademarks and Service Marks
You must be careful that your California LLC name doesn't infringe on the trademark or service mark of another business. The easiest way to ensure you're in the clear is to perform a trademark search through Incfile. If the trademark isn't already in use, you can even register it yourself.
DBA in California
You can do business under a name different from your legal LLC name. California calls this a fictitious name, though you may be familiar with terms other states use, such as trade name, assumed name or "doing business as" (DBA). You may decide to use a fictitious business name in California for a variety of reasons.
For example, your primary business might be called California Leisure and Travel, LLC, and you have a chain called Hollywood Bus Tours. You could register an assumed name just for that brand. You'd do that by filing with the clerk of the county where your business is located. You can also have Incfile do it on your behalf through our DBA service.
Note: A trade name is not the same as a trademark. Learn more about trademark vs. DBA.
Register Your Business Name
You’ve performed a California Secretary of State business search, checked availability, followed the naming rules and determined whether you need a fictitious name. Now you can register your LLC name in one of two ways.