California Business Entity Searches & Naming Your LLC
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.
California Secretary of State Business Search
Once you've picked out a name for your business, you'll need to complete a California LLC search with the CA Secretary of State. The SOS has a helpful tool on their website that lets you search the registry of California LLCs and corporations to see if someone already has your desired business name.
If the name is already used according to the business entity search tool, that means it’s not available and you won’t be able to register it. Try searching for a different business name instead.
California Secretary of State business name search tool
California Naming Rules for LLCs
Once you’ve decided on a name for your LLC and checked business name availability, you’ll need to meet California Secretary of State naming rules. These do vary from state to state — we’ve got general naming rules below, as well as naming rules specific to LLC businesses formed in CA.
General Business Name Availability Rules
These rules typically apply to all LLCs, no matter what state they are formed in. You will need to pay attention to these rules, as they will influence the name you choose for your California LLC.
Your LLC Business Name Must Be Unique
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.
Your LLC Business Name Must Not Be Confusable With Another Business Name
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.
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 Tax Service Center, 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
Specific LLC Naming Rules for California
In addition to the general rules listed above, the California Secretary of State has some specific business naming rules for your LLC. You will need to follow these rules if you want to name your CA business appropriately.
- 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.”
- Although these are the main rules about naming your business in California, there are plenty more. You can find additional rules about naming your California business on the California Secretary of State website.
California Secretary of State business naming rules
California LLC Fictitious Names
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 a “Fictitious 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 Assumed Business Name service.
Incfile’s Assumed Business Name service
Register Your California LLC 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 CA LLC name. 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.
California SOS LLC name reservation form
- If you’re ready to start your California LLC, you can file Articles of Organization with the California SOS yourself, or let Incfile take care of it for you.
FAQs on Naming Your California LLC
You might find the following answers useful.
How Do I Search for My California LLC Business Name?
Just go to the business name search tool and enter your proposed business name. You can search the register of the California Secretary of State, which will tell you if there are any CA corporations or LLCs with that 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.
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. If you are ready to start your business now, you do not need to reserve a name.
Useful Resources for Naming Your California LLC
You might find these resources helpful.
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.
Incfile Trademark Search and Registration service
Find the Perfect Name for Your California LLC
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