Your California business entity needs the perfect name, and we’re here to help. In this section, we’ll guide you through searching the CA Secretary of State business register, tell you about the rules for naming your business, describe “Fictitious Business Names” and get you started with registering your LLC.
Business Name Rules for California LLCs
The business name you have chosen cannot be used by any other LLC or corporation in the state of California. This is why you should check business name availability on the CA SOS website or Incfile’s free Business Name Search
It’s not enough for your CA LLC name to be unique. It also cannot be similar to the name of a corporation or LLC in California. For example, you cannot use the following factors to say your name is different from the name of another business:
- Suffixes, such as Corporation, Company, Incorporated, Incorporation, Limited, Corp., Co., Inc., Ltd., LLC, etc.
- Definite articles like “A,” “And,” “An,” “&,” “The,” etc.
- The singular, plural or possessive forms of a word
- Abbreviations, punctuation, symbols, fonts, typefaces, etc.
All LLCs must have the words “Limited Liability Company,” “L.L.C.” or “LLC” in their name. These words should normally come at the end of the name.
Most states will not allow you to form LLCs with names that:
- Are very similar to the name of a federal or CA agency or organization (e.g., FBI, FDA, California Department of Taxation and Finance, California Police, Treasury, etc.)
- Suggest affiliation with a federal or state agency or organization
- Use the term “Olympic” or any terms that are trademarks of the Olympic organization
- Imply a purpose that it would be illegal for your business to carry out
- The business name may not include the words "corporation, corp, trustee, bank, trust, incorporated or inc."
- Your California business name cannot include any words suggesting you are an insurer or assume insurance risks.
- The business name cannot include “Agency,” “Commission,” “Department,” “Bureau,” “Division,” “Municipal” or “Board.”
Coming up with a Great Business Name
The perfect business name can be elusive. We have a complete guide to choosing the right business name, but basically, you'll want to choose a name that will:
California Business Entity Searches
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few name options, it’s important to check with the California Secretary of State to make sure your preferred business name isn’t already taken by another California business. You can do this using the Secretary of State’s business search tool, or you can use Incfile’s free Business Name Search tool. The tool integrates with California’s business search database to find out if your name is available.
If our search shows the name is already in use, that means it’s not available and you won’t be able to register it. Try searching for a different business name instead.
DBA / Assumed Names for California LLCs
You might choose to do business under a different name from your legal LLC name. In California, doing business under a different name is known as an “Assumed Name.” You might choose to use a different name from your CA formal LLC name for a variety of reasons.
For example, your LLC might be called California Leisure and Travel Holding Company LLC, and you have a chain called Hollywood Bus Tours. You should file a fictitious name to let the California Secretary of State know. In California, you do that through filing a form with the county administration that your business is located in. You can also have Incfile do it on your behalf through our Fictitious Name service.
Register Your Business Name?
Once you’ve searched for your California business name, checked availability, followed the naming rules and decided whether you need a fictitious name, you can register your LLC name with California. There are a couple of ways to do this.
FAQs About Naming Your California LLC
You’ll find plenty more insight and guidance on the other pages of this guide, including:
Yes. Most LLCs will be bound by general rules (applicable to all LLCs) and specific rules (applicable in the state of California). We’ve detailed these rules above.
Yes. Known as “assumed names,” “fictitious names,” “doing business as names” or “trade names,” you can choose to conduct business under a different name. Details are above.
Yes. The California Secretary of State allows you to reserve a name if you don’t want to start your business immediately. Details are above. If you are ready to start your business now, you do not need to reserve a name.
Trademarks and Service Marks
You must be careful that your California LLC name does not infringe on the trademark or service mark of another business. The easiest way to make sure your proposed business name does not infringe is to carry out a trademark search through Incfile. If it doesn’t infringe, you can even register it as a trademark yourself.