California Business Entity Searches and Naming Your LLC

Learn how to conduct a business entity search with the California Secretary of State and register your LLC name.

Starting a California LLC? Have Incfile do all the paperwork for you for free.

Incorporate today for $0 + State fee.

Form Your LLC Now
California business name

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

Your LLC Business Name Must Be Unique

The business name you have chosen cannot be used by any other LLC or corporation in California. This is why you should check business name availability using the California SOS website or Incfile’s free Business Name Search tool.

Your LLC Business Name Must Not Be Confusable With Another Business Name

It’s not enough for your 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.

Your LLC Business Name Must Contain Certain Words

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.

Your LLC Business Name May Have Other General Restrictions

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

Avoid Using Words That Are Restricted or Prohibited by the California Secretary of State

  • 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.”

Read More About California Business Naming Rules

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:

  • Appeal to your customers
  • Be memorable enough to stand out
  • Best represent your product or services
  • Not be used by another business
Incfile guide to choosing a business name

Need help coming up with business name ideas? Try Incfile’s free Business Name Generator.

Get Business Name Ideas

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.

Find out if your preferred business name is available in California with Incfile’s free tool.

Check Your California LLC Name

DBAs/Fictitious 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 either a “Fictitious” or “Doing Business As” name. You might choose to use a different name from your FL 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 and manage a fictitious name or DBA name through our easy-to-use service.

Incfile’s 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.

If you don’t want to form your California LLC right now, you can reserve the business name with the California Secretary of State. You will need to complete a “Name Reservation Request” and file it with the CA SOS. You do not need to reserve a name if you are forming your business right away.

If you’re ready to start your California LLC, you can file your Articles of Organization with the California SOS, or let Incfile take care of it for you for free.

Incfile can handle all your incorporation paperwork with the State of California for you—and we’ll do it for free!

Incorporate in California for $0 + State Fee ($75)

Start Your LLC Now

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.

Make sure your business is starting off on the right foot when it comes to intellectual property. Have Incfile run a trademark search for you.

Incfile’s Trademark & Registration Service

FAQs About Naming Your California LLC

How Do I Make Sure My Business Name Isn’t Already Taken?

You can use Incfile’s Business Name Search tool or search the California business registry yourself on the Secretary of State website. Just go to the business name search tool and enter your proposed business name.

Are There Any Rules on Naming My California LLC?

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.

Can I Do Business Under a Different Name Than My LLC Name in California?

Yes. Known as “assumed names,” “fictitious names,” “doing business as names” or “trade names,” you can choose to conduct business under a different name. In California, these are known as “fictitious names.”

Can I Reserve a Name for My California LLC?

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.

Only $0 + State Fee To Launch Your Business
Clear Pricing. No Contracts. No Surprise.
Start My LLC