California Business Search

You can look up an existing business entity by completing a California business search with the Secretary of State. Currently, information is only available for corporations, limited liability companies, and limited partnerships.

If you require information on limited liability partnerships, general partnerships, associations, and other entity types not contained in the Business Search, you must submit a Business Entities Records Request Form, to request copies of filings for these entity types.

Our California Business Search Guide will give you instructions for looking up all business types, including corporations, and limited liability companies (LLCs).

Recommended: If you are forming an LLC, visit our California Form an LLC guide for step-by-step instructions, including how to search and register your LLC name.

USE A PROFESSIONAL SERVICE:

For a small fee, you can hire someone else to verify your name when they form your LLC or corporation for you.

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California LLC Name Search

When you register your LLC in California, you’ll need to complete a name search, follow the naming guidelines, and then complete the LLC registration documents to officially register your name.

We also recommend searching domain names and trademarks at this time.

Complete a California Business Search

When you form an LLC, you have to make sure your business name is available and distinguishable from other business names.

To verify that your business name is unique, you’ll need to complete a search on the California Secretary of State Business Search webpage.

TIP: If your potential business name has several words in it, you should also search just the first two words to ensure you pull up all possible similar names.

If you find that your business name isn’t available, we recommend taking a look at our LLC Name Generator tool and our How to Name Your Business guide for help with coming up with a unique name.

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Recommended: Complete a domain name search to make sure your domain name is available.

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US Trademark Search

A quick search on the U.S. Trademark Electronic Search System will tell you whether someone else has trademarked your name. The cost of trademarking a name is usually too high for a startup business, but it’s good to know if your name is already taken.

To learn more about trademarks and the steps you will need to get one, read our How to Trademark Your Business guide.

Follow CA LLC Naming Guidelines

Most LLC filing rejections are due to business name issues. This happens when the name isn’t distinguishable enough from other business names or when the name doesn’t meet state guidelines.

California LLC Naming Guidelines:

  • The name of your limited liability company shall contain the words “limited liability company,” or the abbreviation “L.L.C.” or “LLC.” “Limited” may be abbreviated as “Ltd.,” and “company” may be abbreviated as “Co.”
  • The name shall not include the words “bank,” “trust,” “trustee,” “incorporated,” “inc.,” “corporation,” or “corp.” and shall not include the words “insurer” or “insurance company” or any other words suggesting that it is in the business of issuing policies of insurance and assuming insurance risks.
  • Your name must be distinguishable from any existing business in the state and shall not be a name that the Secretary of State determines likely to mislead the public. This includes California reserved names. We will help with this step in the search for your business name section below.

Visit the California LLC naming statute for a full list of naming guidelines.

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In California, your business name is officially registered when your LLC is approved. Use our free step-by-step Form an LLC in CA guide to get started.

Form an LLC

CA Corporation Search

When you register a corporation in California, you’ll need to complete a name search, follow naming guidelines, and then complete corporation registration documents to officially register your name.

We also recommend searching domain names and trademarks at this time.

Complete a California Business Entity Search

When you start a corporation, you have to make sure your business name is available and distinguishable from other business names.

To verify that your business name is unique, you’ll need to complete a business name availability search on the California Secretary of State Business Search webpage.

TIP: If your potential business name has several words in it, you should also search just the first two words to ensure you pull up all possible similar names.

If you find that your business name isn’t available, we recommend taking a look at our Business Name Generator tool and our How to Name Your Business guide for help with coming up with a unique name.

The Truic Flame Logo

Recommended: Complete a domain name search to make sure your domain name is available.

GoDaddy

Follow CA Corporation Naming Guidelines

Most business filing rejections are due to business name issues. This happens when the name isn’t distinguishable enough from other business names or when the name doesn’t meet state guidelines.

California Corporation Naming Rules:

  • Your name must be distinguishable from the name of any existing business in California and must not be the same or deceptively similar to an existing corporate name. This includes California reserved names. We will help with this step in the search for your business name section below.
  • The name of your corporation must not be one likely to mislead the public. A proposed name is likely to mislead the public in the following circumstances:
  • It implies the corporation is a government agency
  • It implies the corporation is a professional corporation under the Moscone-Knox Professional Corporation Act when it is not
  • It uses a misleading identifier, e.g. includes the abbreviation LLC
  • It creates the false implication that the corporation's purpose is to be an insurer when it is not

Visit the California corporation naming statute for a full list of naming guidelines.

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In California, your business name is registered when your corporation is approved. Use our free step-by-step Start a Corporation in California guide to get started.

Start a Corporation

CA Secretary of State Business Entity Search

If you need to search existing business entities in California, visit the California Secretary of State Business Search and include any info you have on the business in the search cells.

CA Business Search FAQ

How do I name a small business?

Naming a small business is often a do-it-yourself job. Small business startup budgets usually won’t support hiring someone to help name your business. For easy step-by-step instructions on naming your small business, visit our How to Name a Business guide.

How do I come up with a catchy business name?

The first step to naming your business is figuring out what business structure you will use for your new company. After that, you will brainstorm at least 4-5 possible names. The more you brainstorm the better. Once you have some names, you can test the names against best practices, name availability, and state guidelines.

Not sure what to name your business? Check out our LLC Name Generator.

Should you name your business after yourself?

Naming your business after yourself has its benefits. Unless you have a name like John Smith, your name can help you find a .com domain name. If you are coming up with innovative ideas or a new approach, using your name can help create a strong brand.

There are also reasons NOT to name your business after yourself. If you don’t want to be the face and name of your business, it won’t work. If your type of client or customer base would prefer a company name, then you should give them a company name to work with.

If you want your business to someday run on its own, without you working there every day, then you shouldn’t use your name.

Can I sell my trademark or buy someone else’s?

Yes, you can sell or buy a trademark. A trademark is considered intellectual property which means it can be sold like property. It’s important to consult with an attorney before buying or selling intellectual property, especially trademarks.

Is my trademark application public?

Yes, your trademark application, including your personal identification information, is public. By law, your trademark information must be easily searchable by the public.

Where should I buy a domain name?

Our top choice in web hosting and domain registrars is GoDaddy. We like their domain search tool — you can search for the exact name you want or make suggestions based on keywords and available names. There are also several other companies to choose from that will provide a good experience.

Visit GoDaddy to search for domain names.

Can I put the word “company” in my business name?

Yes, you can. Neither the term “company” nor any of its abbreviations has any legal connotations. A company is simply an association of individuals.

Do I have to write “LLC” after my company name?

If you choose to use a limited liability company structure for your new business, most states will require that you use LLC after the name. You can also use the full term limited liability company.


If you are marketing your business, you usually don’t have to use LLC after the name.

California Business Resources

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